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© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 






CHAPTER ONE - Introduction 

CHAPTER TWO - Why Athletes Fail 

CHAPTER THREE - Injuries, Technique and Shoes 

CHAPTER FOUR - Training 

CHAPTER FIVE - Weight Training 

CHAPTER SIX - Diet and Vitamins 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 





Sir, Under the heading “Athletics honours Pirie” (February 26) you report the tributes paid to 
the late Gordon Pirie at the memorial service in St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. As well as his 
contemporaries, the athletics establishment, both past and present, and the press were well 

It is regrettable that this acclaim and recognition comes now, after he has gone, and was not 
expressed when he was ahve. The country he served so well on the world's mnning tracks 
thought him unworthy of an honour, while the estabhshment found no place for his profound 
knowledge of the sport and his boundless enthusiasm. It must baffle his many admirers world- 
wide that Britain offered him no official coaching post. 

The argument was put forward in your sports letters (December 26) that the regular award of 
honours for sporting achievements did not begin until the Sixties, after Pine's time. This is not 

In the Queen's Birthday Honours list of June 1955, Sir Roger Bannister, a contemporary of 
Pirie, was appointed CBE for his services to amateur athletics, clearly for achieving the first 
sub -four- minute mile the preceding year. In the same hst, George Headley, the West Indian 
cricketer, was created MBE. 

Picking at random, one finds in the New Year's Honours of 1958 a CBE for Dennis Compton 
(services to sport), a similar honour for Dai Rees (golf) and the MBE for the boxer Hogan 
“Kid” Bassey (for his services to sport in Eastern Nigeria). 

Rather ironically, in the same year. Jack Cmmp, the secretary of the British Amateur Athletics 
Board, with whom Pirie was often at loggerheads, was appointed OBE for his services to 

Pine's services to sport far exceeded those of his British contemporaries; athletes or officials. 
He was a giant of his time and it was his name that drew crowds to the White City and inspired 
the later Bedfords and Fosters. One suspects that he ultimately paid the price for speaking out 
and for being of independent mind without the necessary Oxbridge pedigree. The answers lay 
among that assembly gathered in St Bride's, and ought to be revealed. 

Mrs Jennifer Gilbody 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



I would like to thank Miss Patricia Chamet, and my mother, Mrs Jennifer Gilbody, for their 
encouragement during this project. At last I have fulfilled my promise to Gordon to fine-tune, 
medically vahdate and pubhsh his work, though I am sure were he here he would have some 
words to say; probably “about bloody time”! 

Pur ley 2nd XI, 

1946 (Gordon on right handside) 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



Gordon Piiie lived with us for several years up to his death in 1991, and had a profound effect 
on us aU. Of many things about Gordon, what particularly impressed was his physical fitness, 
and desire for perfection with aU things athletic. A good example of this was the time he did 
some lumber jacking in the New Forest in Hampshire, and proudly boasted how many more 
trees he cut down than men thirty years his junior. On another occasion, I inadvertently agreed 
to join Gordon “for a mn” on a disused section of railway track, thinking myself moderately fit. 
Being half Gordon's age, I was somewhat taken aback when, in the time it took me to run one 
length of track, Gordon had mn three! Associated with this, which was humihation enough, 
were various comments about my mnning shoes and mnning technique (or lack of), as one 
might imagine. 

The original manuscript of this book was written by Gordon, in typical fashion, in 24 hours fiat. 
The 5 *4- inch diskette on which the computer file was saved had been tucked away in a sports 
bag until Gordon rediscovered it, and somehow got folded in half. As a result, it took a fuU 
weekend to retrieve the data, and I had to cut out the magnetic media from within the diskette, 
replace it into a customised new diskette, merge snippets of uncormpted data into a single 
ASCn file, and then laboriously convert the file line by line into a recognised wordprocessor 
format. During this process, Gordon looked on with an enigmatic smile; he always did tike to set 
challenges, however impossible! Revision and editing was started shortly before Gordon's 
death, and the manuscript transferred to our possession, with Gordon's express desire that the 
book be pubhshed by us in order to assist the training of a new generation of mnners. Overall, 
to get from that early stage to the present book has taken five years of work, and has been a 
sizeable project for me, albeit one which I was of course determined and happy to achieve. 

As you will see, the book is highly controversial, with some radical ideas (one of the reasons it 
has had to be self-pubhshed!), but I beheve it is a fitting tribute to Gordon Pirie, which should 
give an insight into why he was such a successful mnner, and perhaps even an opportunity for 
others to emulate him. The reader may be interested to know of Gordon's two other books - 
“Running Wild” (pubhshed by W H Ahen, Eondon, 1961), and “The ChaUenge of Orienteering” 
(Pelham Books Eimited, 1968). In addition, the writer Dick Booth recently published a detailed 
biographical account of Gordon's life, entitled: “The Impossible Hero” (Corsica Press, Eondon, 
1999), which is available from and . I 
should also mention extensive discussions about Gordon based on interviews (complete 
chapters) in Alastair Aitken’s books “Athletics Enigmas” (The Book Guild Etd., 2002) and 
“More Than Winning” (The Book Guild Etd., 1992). 

Finally, I am keen to get your feedback about this book, or any reminiscences about Gordon, 
and would be dehghted to receive comments via fax (+44 (0)1256-765888), letter (P.O. Box 
7210, Hook RG27 9GE, United Kingdom) or e-mail ( . Also, check 
out my “Gordon Pirie Resource Center” at , where you can 
download this book for free in Acrobat (pdf) format. Recommended newsgroup: rec.running. 
You can find free downloadable newsreel footage of Gordon at ; 
other (purchasable) footage is at and . 

Happy reading! 

Dr John S Gilbody (last updated 4 January 2004) 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



In my 45 years of miming, world- wide, I am constantly being called upon to cure injured 
mnners and correct their technical errors. This apphes across the board - from young to aged, 
and from champions to novices. It is in response to this overwhehning demand that I decided to 
write this book. 

There is an entire generation of mnners who have suffered severely from the mal- information 
supplied to them by shoe manufacturers, and the pseudo- experts who pass themselves off as 
knowledgeable authorities in the popular miming press. Some of these mnners will never mn 
again. Unfortunately, many mnners have been led up athletic blind alleys by incorrect 
information, and have become either too severely injured or too disenchanted with the sport to 

This book is an extension of the activities I have been involved in for the last 45 years - namely, 
curing injured mnners and turning slow mnners into fast mnners. It is also written for the 
champion athletes, mnners who intend to develop their extraordinary abdities to a point where 
they will be able to win major championship events. 

It is a tragedy that so many super- talented mnners reach a point just below that of the great 
champions, without ever breaking through to the very pinnacle of the sport. These talented 
mnners fail either because they lack a knowledge of the tactics necessary to win a race, or 
because their technique fails them at critical stages during a race; for instance, being unable to 
apply the “Fini Britarmique”, the “Coup- de- Grace”, the hard finishing burst which will carry 
them past their opponents to the finish fine ahead. If you are an athlete who wants to stand on 
the top step of the victory rostmm, you have to be cleverer than your opponents, train harder, 
race tougher, and never give up at any stage of your miming. This book will start you on the 
road to being the mnner you want to become. 

It is my hope that this book will release mnners from the incorrect information and false 
commerciahsm that has damaged the sport and mined nulhons of mnners in recent years. 
Running is a sport, a game that I love. 

Good luck in whatever you achieve. It is aU “fun miming”. 

Gordon Phie 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



1 - Running with correct technique (even in prepared bare feet), on any surface, is injury free. 

2 - Running equals springing through the air, landing elastically on the forefoot with a flexed 
knee (thus producing quiet feet). On landing, the foot should be directly below the body. 
(Walking is landing on the heels with a straight leg). 

3 - Any and aU additions to the body damage mnning s kill . 

4 - Quality beats quantity; the speed at which you practice the most wiU be your best speed. 

5 - Walking damages mnning. 

6 - The correct mnning tempo for human beings is between three and five steps per second. 

7 - Arm power is directly proportional to leg power. 

8 - Good posture is critical to mnning. (Don't lean forwards!). 

9 - Speed kills endurance; endurance kills speed. 

10 - Each individual can only execute one “Program” at any one time; an individual can be 
identified by his or her idiosyncrasies (i.e. “Program”). An hdividual can change his or her 
“Program” only by a determined, educational effort; each individual's “Program” degenerates 
unless it is controlled constantly. 

1 1 - Static stretching exercises cause injuries! 

12 - Running equals being out of breath, so breathing through the mouth is obhgatory (hence the 
nickname ‘ ‘Puff Puff Pirie’ ’) . 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



The primary reason mnning has become the most popular participant sport in the United States 
and elsewhere in recent years is its innate simphcity. Running is an activity which comes naturally 
to aU human beings. It is of course hue that some people are bom with a particular set of 
physical and psychological characteristics that make them better mnners than the rest, but, 
nevertheless, everyone can mn well at some distance, hr addition, mnning requires no particular 
equipment or infrashucture; only a simple resolve to “get at it”. 

Given this innate simplicity, it is maddening for people like myself (I have been in the sport for 
nearly half a century) to see mnning become cluttered up with so much bad information - 
erroneous assumptions ranging from the supposed safest and most efficient way to train, to 
supposed proper mnning- shoe design. Much of this information is so distorted and based on so 
many mistaken principles, that it is impossible for either the serious athlete or the 
health- conscious jogger to know where to turn for guidance. During my own running career, I 
have seen the sport mature from the days when it was uncommon for the top mnners to train 
more than three or four times each week, to the present era where sponsorship and product 
endorsements make it possible for the top athletes to devote virtually aU of their time to training 
and racing. 

In the last 45 years, I have participated in three Olympic Games (winning a Silver Medal in the 
5,000- metre race at the 1956 Melbourne Games), and have set five official world records (and 
a dozen or so more unofficial world bests). I have faced and beaten most of the greatest 
athletes of my time, and have mn to date nearly a quarter of a mi lli on miles. Along the way, I 
have coached several of Great Britain and New Zealand's best mnners - some of whom have 
set their own world records. In addition, I aided the late Adolf (Adi) Dassler (founder of 
Adidas) in developing spiked racing shoes, on which most of today's good designs are based. 
This brief hst of some of my accomphshments is presented in order to lend credibihty to what 

The information in this book is not based on idle speculations or esoteric theorising, but on more 
than 45 years of experience as an athlete and coach. I therefore hope that I can now begin to 
make a rigorous case for the fact that most mnners in the world are currently mnning incorrectly 
and training inefficiently. This holds tme both for people who are mnning simply to improve the 
quahty of their health, as well as for athletes competing at the upper levels of international 
competition. Statistics compiled by the American Medical Association indicate that as many as 
70 percent of the more than 30 mi ll ion “serious” mnners in the United States can count on being 
injured every year. This disturbing injury rate is not lim ited solely to beginners and ehte athletes, 
but applies to mnners at every level, across the board. 

There are three basic reasons for the injury epidemic currently sweeping the mnning world, 
which is making life unpleasant for mi lli ons of mnners, and destroying many more who are lost 
to the sport forever. The first is the most basic - very few mnners know how to mn correctly. 
Improper technique puts undue strain on the feet, ankles, knees, back and hips, and makes 
injury inevitable. 

The second reason is more subtle than the first, though closely related to it. Most mnning shoes 
today are designed and constmcted in such a manner as to make correct technique impossible 
(and therefore cause chronic injuries to the people who wear them). It is a common 
misconception that a mnner should land on his or her heels and then roll forward to the front of 
the foot with each stride. In designing their shoes, most shoe companies fall prey to this 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

incorrect assumption. The result is that mnning shoes get larger and clumsier every year. Far 
from protecting mnners, these shoes actually lim it the mnner's abihty to mn properly, and as a 
result may contribute to the injury epidemic. 

The third factor accounting for the current plague of injuries is an over- emphasis on mileage in 
training, especially “long slow distance” (LSD). Without the constant maintenance of a proper 
balance in training - including sprinting, interval training, weights, hiUs and long-running - a 
mnner's body simply will not adapt to the stresses it encounters on a day-to-day basis. 

Most mnners approach the sport backwards. Initially, they settle into a training regime and go at 
it. Then, if problems occur, they might think about making changes to the way they mn or in the 
shoes they wear (though few get around to making a constmctive change. Most wait for a 

The first thing a mnner must know is how to mn properly. Everything else follows from there. It 
is at this fundamental stage that this book shall begin. Before this, however, it might be 
interesting and helpful for the reader to understand some of my experiences in the sport - 
something of my roots. 

As a small boy in England, I was initiated into the world of long distance mnning by my father, a 
competitor in the XC World Championships in 1926, who also ran marathons and served as 
the race director for a number of 20- and 30- mile road races; the South Eondon Harriers' 
30-mile race has been held annually since the 1940s, making it one of the oldest long distance 
mnning events. As a result of my father's af fli ction with the somewhat infinite fascinations of 
distance mnning, I was exposed to a constant stream of absolutely mad long distance mnners 
(including a European champion, an Olympic Silver Medahst and a Commonwealth Games 
winner) at a very early age. 

It was my job to take these champion mnners around the courses which my father had devised. 
Since I was unable to mn with the men at the age of ten, my only alternative was to guide them 
around the courses by bicycle. Chief among the lessons I learned from these accomphshed (and 
shghtly eccentric) athletes was something of the habits of top-class distance mnners. At times 
they seemed crazy. They were extremely aggressive, and often at war with the world. 
Remember, this vas at a time when it was extremely uncommon to see mnners on the streets 
and roads. I recall particularly the choleric disdain in which they held members of the “civihsed 
world” - a world they seemed not to consider themselves a part. This confrontational attitude 
would often frighten and embarrass me. I would cycle off ahead of the mnners I was guiding in 
order to avoid finding myself in the middle of an uncomfortable confrontation with an angry 
motorist, cychst or pedestrian. The mnners, many hardened by the depression, and some 
products of life in the coal mines, tmly believed that the roads belonged to them while they were 
on a mn. If one of these free spirits encountered a sharp bend in the road, they had to mn the 
shortest possible distance around the bend, crossing the road with the result that traffic in both 
directions screeched to a halt. 

They were always spoiling for a fight, and many an angry motorist was ready to obhge. Their 
aggressiveness increased with the difficulty of the course they were mnning. An extremely tough 
one in Surrey had several very big, very steep hiUs which rose as high as 400 feet. On a mn 
through these chalk hiUs in the North Downs, it was impossible to detect any of the mnners' 
reputed rehsh for a tough c lim b. The hiUs served only to make them more and more beUigerent, 
and more and more angry. 

The late Tom Richards, a Welsh ex-miner, was typical of these mnners. He was, until his death 
in 1985, a real hard bastard on a training mn. His intense nature won h im a Silver Medal in the 
1948 Olympic Marathon. Tom ran the last twenty miles of that race about 100 yards behind the 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

eventual winner, Cabrera of Argentina (in fact, no one told Tom he was in third place most of 
the way). He was not quite able to make up the deficit in the final rrules and finished just 15 
seconds behind the Argentinian. Both he and Cabrera overtook Gailly of Belgium inside the 

Tom Richards was one of the athletes with whom I first began to mn in the 1940s. Tom and 
runners like him were always experimenting with special diets or drinks intended to improve 
their racing performance (some things never change, do they?). They did everything in those 
days by trial and error - just like today! Nevertheless, they did make mistakes that would seem 
quite obvious to us now, like taking strong, heavily salted or sugared drinks to keep them going. 
As a result, it wasn't uncommon then for an exhausted mnner to be bent over with stomach or 
leg cramps at the end of a marathon - a direct consequence of these highly concentrated drinks. 
It was typical at the finish of such races to see stretchers bearing cramped- up mnners being 
attended to by medical personnel. In fact, the men (there were no women mnning long distance 
races in those days) who did not cramp up severely were a rarity. It seemed as if the only 
reason to mn a marathon at aU was to enlist sympathy from friends and loved ones, who were 
sure the mnner was breathing his last. 

The Coulsdon Marathon finished outside the Tudor Rose, a popular local pub. Consequently, a 
good, strong, tough Welsh miner could finish the race, be dead on his feet, and stiU manage to 
shuffle another 100 yards to the Tudor Rose; there to down a dozen pints of good English beer 
to prevent his collapse (or, perhaps, to hasten it). 

An old mnner named Bailey, aged well into his seventies, was a constant bane to race officials 
who did not particularly want to stand around after dark waiting for h im to finish. During one 
particular event, a race in which the mnners had to cover the same loop three times, officials 
famihar with Bailey's reputation for late night fin ishes determined to capture him after two laps 
and physically remove him from the course. They underestimated the tenacity of this stubborn 
old man, however, and it took half a dozen officials, some only half Bailey's age, to catch him 
and remove him from the course. As they carried him away, his legs continued mnning, free- 
wheeling in mid-air. Old Bailey was determined to get in as much mileage as possible. 

Another race, this one around Windsor Castle and the beautiful Windsor Great Park, took 
place on an extremely hot day. Most of the mnners were wiped out by the heat, either because 
of their various poisonous drinks, old age, or simply because they were unfit. Even the winner, 
Griffiths of Heme Hi11 Harriers, stmggled across the finish fine looking more like a hospital case 
than a champion mnner. 

Incidentally, Windsor Castle was the starting fine for the 1908 Olympic Marathon, so that King 
Edward VII could view the start. Erom there it was 26 miles and 385 yards to the finish fine at 
the site of the ex- White City Stadium - the marathon distance which has survived to this day. 
Erom the above you can see that my attitude to mnning has been coloured somewhat by being 
brought up with a generation of running “idiots” - not at aU a term I use in a derogatory way. 
These men exhibited a good deal more courage than common sense or sound training methods, 
like many mnners today, but they did the best that they could. Euckily, in many ways, there 
wasn't much in terms of scientific data on the effects of different types of training available in the 
1940s, but then those early mnners were victims of the same type of athletic ignorance which so 
many mnners stiU suffer from today. 

Running ignorance refers to a mnner who goes from one fmstration to another because he or 
she knows absolutely nothing about the effects of training on the body. This athlete may be 
Summa Cum Eaude or a world champion. What I learned from those early pioneers was a 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


great deal about the psychological aspects of distance running - chiefly that if a runner can 
convince himself or herself that a task is possible, the battle is half won. 

On the other hand, an “Athletic Ignoramae” is a runner of a different nature altogether. He is like 
the great African runners who race without presumptions or preconceived lim itations. He has no 
fear of lap times or of a fast pace. He simply mns his opponents off their feet. 

It is amazing to consider that even though US mnners have all the .scientific help and assistance 
the modem world can devise, the “Athletic Ignoramae” from Africa regularly beat the heU out of 
them at the World Championships. It is, tragically, even more amazing when these same 
“Athletic Ignoramae” are imported into US Colleges and destroyed. They are like flowers - 
flowers bloom better and for longer when left unpicked! 

Even in recent times, there have been mnners like Alberto Salazar who beheved that he could 
never develop a sprint finish because of the physiological nonsense scientists fed him. AH that 
was required was for him to identify which aspects of his miming character needed to be 
developed so he could sprint, and then to develop them! 

My own journey to the top of the heap in international miming began when I saw Errul Zatopek 
demolish the world's best over 10,000 metres at the 1948 Olympic Games in Eondon. At the 
time, Zatopek was considered something of a phenomenon. His domination of the sport was 
attributed to an unnatural level of physical abihty. Completely overlooked in the so-called 
experts' evaluation of Zatopek was his absolutely uninhibited style and the terrific training loads 
he subjected himself to. Zatopek's performance in 1948 ht a fire in my imagination. 

I made up my mind to stop being a spectator. I did not go to another session of the Games. I 
stayed at home, training hard, from that day on. There are few other athletes in the world who 
are willing to make that kind of commitment. They want to be spectators too! But for me, it 
paid off with several world records, an Olympic medal, and, finally, three victories over the 
great Zatopek himself 

At a time when traditional wisdom frowned upon young athletes training hard, Zatopek's 
performance demonstrated that what was needed to reach the top was not more caution, but 
more hard work, study, discipline and courage. Zatopek's races in the 1948 and 1952 Olympic 
Games opened the door for athletes who came after h im . He demonstrated that an athlete must 
train two or three times a day, year in and year out, in order to max im ise their abihty. With the 
example of Zatopek before me, I was ready to attack the running world with a vengeance. But 
before I could fuhy reahse my grand ambitions, I needed to make sure I was qiending my 
training time efficienhy - that is, employing the proper activities in the proper amounts in my 

Eohowing the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games I met the great German coach Waldemar 
Gerschler. At that time, Gerschler had already spent 20 years working closely with Professor 
Hans Reindah, a heart speciahst, and with psychological experts. His approach to training 
distance runners was well ahead of its time. He called for a systematic approach to training, 
which prepared the athlete's body and mind to withstand greater and greater efforts. 

Gerschler was the first person I met who suggested it was possible for me to train even more. 
Erom Gerschler I learned how to produce an absolutely maximum effort. Prior to meeting him I 
had been training on my own, but his expertise freed me from that responsibihty. I had been 
training hard prior to meeting Gerschler, but had not reaUy understood what I was doing - nor 
had I cared much about it, either. 

I stiU employ many of the principles of interval training which I learned from this great German 
coach during the 1950s. Nearly every top runner in the world today uses Gerschler's interval 
principles, most without knowing it - a good example was the American Steve Scott. 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

With Gerschler as my mentor, I was able to lower the world reeord for 5,000 metres to 
13:36.8 in 1956 (Gundar Haegg first broke 14:00 with a 13:58 in 1944). Gersehler's training 
methods made it possible for me to compete with the world's best for more than 10 years. The 
example of Zatopek, along with Gersehler's expertise, made it possible for me to become an 
uninhibited competitor. The cmcial point in all this was that I was determined to set aside what 
was then traditional thinking, in order to do whatever was necessary to eliminate my athletic 

The autumn and winter months were spent in cross country racing. I was well known during 
those years for destroying the competition with insanely fast starts. In 1954, I opened the 
National Cross Country Championship Race (over a distance of 10 miles) with a 2:03 first half- 
mile through mud. It was my habit as a cross country mnner to attempt to settle the question of 
who would win as early as possible, leaving everyone else in the field to mn for second place. 

In the Surrey Senior Cross Country Championships a couple of years earher, I won the seven 
and a half miles championships with a time of just over 33:00 in conditions so bad that Chris 
Chataway (later to become one of the world's best) was able to win the junior five -mile race in 
only 28:00. In the 1953 Surrey Championships, I broke the course record for five miles en 
route to winning the seven and a half miles championship, beating Chataway by nearly two 

As early as 1951, just one week after winning the Southern Junior Cross Country title over six 
miles by a huge two and a half minute margin, I was able to defeat the reigning Senior Southern 
Cross Country Champion, John Stone, to win the Royal Air Force Championship in Wales. 
During those years, I ran on the winriing team in the Southern Youths (three miles), and Junior 
(six rrules) and Senior (nine rrules) divisions - a feat unequalled in Enghsh cross country miming. 
In 1955, the late British team manager. Jack Cramp, said of my cross country racing successes: 
“Gordon Pirie is the greatest cross country runner I have seen”. 

My success was not l im ited to the winter months or to cross country running, however. I took 
on a full schedule of international- level track racing during the summer over all distances. 
Between 1951 and 1961, I faced the world's best at every track distance from 800 metres 
through to 10,000 metres - and beat many of these “distance specialists”. 

My training regime made it possible for me to succeed against such runners as Wes Santee (The 
Kansas Cowboy who set a world record over 1,500 metres) in the famous Emsley Carr Mile in 
1953. Michael Jazy (world record holder over one mile) and German star Klaus Richtzenhain 
(the 1956 Olympic 1,500 metre Silver medalist) were both defeated in 1,500 metre races in 
1961 and 1956, respectively, despite the constant claim of the “experts” that I was too slow to 
succeed at such a short distance. Derek Ibbotson, Vladmir Kuts, Sandor Iharos, Istvan 
Rdzsavolgyi, Easlo Tabori, Peter SneU, Herb Ell iott and John Walker, all world record holders, 
are also amongst my victims. 

I did not achieve this unparalleled success due to the possession of any extraordinary physical 
gifts or a magical training formula. I simply went about my training and racing with a singleness 
of purpose and determination that was unfashionable at that time, to the point of being 
downright “un- Enghsh”. I was able to beat such great runners because I trained myself to be 
able to withstand incredibly hard races and stiU sprint the last 220 yards in something near 25 
seconds (on heavy cinder track). 

To achieve this, I ran 10x220 yards in 24 seconds - not once, but twice in a single day. I could 
manage 20x440 yards in 59 seconds with only a 30- second jog to recover, or 12x440 yards in 
55 or 56 seconds, with a one-minute recovery jog. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


In 1954, 1 was labelled “crazy” when I promised to lower the world record for 5,000 metres to 
13:40. The sporting press called me a mnning “idiot” (hence my affection for the term). 
Apparently, my candour at suggesting that both the great Haegg's record and the “impossible” 
13:40 barrier might be vulnerable to an athlete wiUing to attack them with unfashionable 
determination, was viewed by the press as somewhat presumptuous. It was one thing to strive 
for an achievement that the world at large viewed as impossible, but quite another to be honest 
about it. Imagine my critics' surprise when, on June 19, 1956, 1 ran 5,000 metres in 13:36.8 to 
become the first athlete to break the “impossible” 13:40 barrier, pulling the late and great 
Vladimir Kuts (13:39.6) under the magical mark with me. My critics in the press and elsewhere 
were strangely silent after Kuts and I both broke Diaros's recent world record of 13:40.8. 
Despite my competitive record, however, my greatest enemy was never the athletes I raced 
against. My battle was constandy with myself. I was much more interested in overcoming my 
own lim itations than in smashing my opponents. I was never satisfied with my fitness level. I was 
constantly adding to my workload, and exploring toe absolute limits of my body. There were 
times when I perhaps went too near the edge, but stiU I was able to avoid serious injury, and 
improve throughout my international career, even after many years. I tried every type of mnning 
imaginable from very fast sprinting up to hard interval training and mnning ultra- marathon 
distances. I ran hiUs and hfted weights. I trained hard, but never in a haphazard manner. I was 
always pushing, but knew exactly what I was doing. It takes a careful attention to every detail of 
your lifestyle, and more than just a simple resolve, in order to improve. It takes planning and 
knowledge. That knowledge is what this book is about. 

So, with a background of almost 50 years as a world class athlete and coach, let us begin. The 
principles outiined and detailed in the following pages will be called revolutionary in many 
quarters, but they are the same methods which I employed during my own competitive career, 
and which have been refined by three decades of training athletes such as Anne Smith (Great 
Britain), Anne Audain (New Zealand), Ahson Roe (New Zealand) and Jim Hogan (Ireland) - aU 
world record holders - together with many other champions. The information conveyed in this 
book apphes equally to the aspiring Olympian, the Hgh school athlete anxious to win a local 
championship, the recreational marathoner or 1 0- kilometre mnner, and the casual jogger. My 
intent in writing the book is to provide mnners at every level with an understanding of the sport 
that will make their running safer and more satisfying - not to mention a dam sight faster! 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



The prevailing attitude amongst mnners and those who coach or advise them, is that a failure to 
attain specific goals is the result of either bad luck, lack of talent, or some form of psychological 
shortcoming on the part of the athlete. Usually, none of these reasons is tme. Athletes fail so 
often because they are not trained to succeed. Most athletes employ training methods or have 
lifestyles which make it impossible for them to perform up to their expectations and aspirations. 
Another important factor is the poor design of most mnning shoes. The shoe manufacturers 
have taken on the role of God. They think that He made a mistake in designing man's foot, and 
that they are going to fix it overnight! I wiU discuss this latter point in some detail later. 

The most common difficulty in the United States (and almost everywhere else in the world) is 
the obsession people have with measuring everything they do. The object of serious training is 
to improve racing performance, but to hsten to many athletes and coaches one would think that 
the object is simply to produce impressive numbers for the training diary! Too many athletes get 
stuck in the notion that the end of training is training; if an athlete cannot string together a certain 
number of 100- mile weeks or mn so many times 400 metres in such and such a time, then he or 
she becomes discouraged and begins to wonder whether any kin d of performance is possible. 
Remember, the reason an athlete trains is to race. 

Set aside right now the idea that impressive training results wiU automatically translate into 
successful racing. Progress is not measured on the training track, or by the number of miles 
logged each week. Progress is determined by what happens when an athlete races. 

Training must be adjusted to the athlete's needs on a daily basis. There is no set formula for how 
often a fit athlete should do his or her hardest training. The athlete and coach must learn to 
adjust training expectations according to factors in the athlete's hfe, outside of mnning. If, for 
example, the coach wishes an athlete to mn 20x200 metres in 30 seconds, but the athlete has 
had a difficult day at work or school, the coach should reduce the workload accordingly. The 
athlete may well be able to mn 20x200 metres in something slower than 30 seconds (say 33 
seconds), or mn at 30- second speed ten times, but the effort may set training back as much as 
a week. They should take an easy day. 

Because mnners always demonstrate a determination and singleness of purpose rarely 
encountered in people involved in other sports, they tend to overdo their training when rest is 
called for (that is, relative rest, not necessarily zero activity). The generally accepted notion is: 
“The harder I train, the faster I will mn”. This is not necessarily tme. There is nothing wrong with 
training very hard for a time - even right to the limit - then backing off and having a period of 
rest. Hard training is very important; but so is rest. Training hard when fatigued is asking for 
fimstration, disappointment, and possibly injury or illness. 

A training plan is very important, but it should be infinitely flexible! Too zealous an adherence to 
a plan can leave a mnner fiat on his back. In May 1981, I watched Grete Waitz training at 
Bislet Stadium in Oslo two or three days after a hard race. Her legs were stiU stiff and sore from 
the stress of the race, so her training (300- metre sprints) was going badly. I wrote to Ame 
Haukvik, the Oslo promoter, following that session to ask him to warn Grete that she would 
soon be injured if she pursued this course of training. Sure enough, Grete suffered a serious foot 
injury a few weeks later, which caused her to drop out of her world record attempt at 5,000 
metres. She lost the rest of the season. 

Another common training error is to abandon methods which have worked well only to see 
racing performance deteriorate. Eor example, Alberto Salazar was one of the best 5,000 and 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

10,000 metre mimers in the world when he set a world record in the marathon in 1982. Shortly 
after that success, he changed his training and racing habits in order to “specialise” on road 
instead of track miming, and as a direct consequence of this, he was subsequently unable to 
match his previous performances at any distance (including the marathon). Salazar had spent 
many years building himself up into a great track mnner, and the speed he developed on the 
track made him unbeatable in the marathon. Yet, by a very subtle change in his approach to 
training in favour of the marathon, he lost this speed advantage. The result was disappointment 
and fmstration. Alberto went from being a great mnner, who dominated every marathon he 
entered, to simply being ^ery good. By 1985, he was a slower mnner than Mary Decker! Had 
he maintained the type of training he was doing prior to his great 1982 season, we aU know he 
would have been hard to beat in the 1984 Olympic Marathon. The winner of that race was 
Carlos Lopes, who just six weeks before had mn the second fastest 10,000 metres in history. 
The two mnners close behind h im were also seasoned track athletes with the “track advantage”. 
The marathon “speciahsts” - Seko, De CasteUa, Dixon and Salazar - aU finished out of the 

A further factor contributing to the high failure rate of aspiring athletes is that most do not reahse 
the time it takes to reach their maximum capabilities. It is not uncommon for promising 
youngsters to train with complete dedication for two or three years with one coach, and then, 
just as they are about to make a real breakthrough, get discouraged by their undramatic (but 
steady) progress - usually blaming their coach - and consequently change coaches or even give 
it aU up in frustration. 

A distressingly high number of these promising young mnners are killed off by too much racing 
over distances that are too long for them, at too young an age. The best mnners in schools 
frequently mn two or even three races in a single track meet. These athletes are being praised in 
the press and by their coaches for this insanity, while they are destroying not only their abihty to 
mn, but also their enthusiasm for the sport. 

An extreme example of this was the American Matt Donnelly, a gifted young mnner in 
Washington State. Donnelly ran a 4:06 mile as a 17-year-old high school junior, but in the same 
meet also ran the 800 metres (with a prehminary heat) and the 3,200 metres. Moreover, he had 
been required to qualify for the State Championships two weeks earher by miming a similar 
schedule of races. The result? Eight races in fourteen days. The following year he was able to 
manage only a 4:14 mile at the same venue, and two years later as a university freshman had 
improved to only 3:47 for 1,500 metres. This talented youngster should have become one of the 
best mnners in America, but instead is now stmgghng to perform at the same level he did as a 

This is only one aspect of the US sports system as regards mnning. Another example is the 
university- level athlete, who is a points winner, a professional employee, a tool of the Colleges. 
Sadly, most are destroyed by this system. In virtually aU such cases, the athlete's fmstration is 
brought about by a lack of knowledge; knowledge of exactly what is required to reahse his or 
her potential. It takes a good deal of know-how to reach the top, which most athletes and 
coaches simply do not possess. 

Many mnners never suspect they have the abihty to mn at championship level. Most of us have 
the abihty to be consistent winners in our club or school. A surprisingly large number even have 
the capabihty to win at the regional or national level, or to mn minutes and minutes faster on our 
10 kms or marathons. To reach the upper levels of our potential, however, takes years of 
dedication and intense, carefully controhed training. Training involves constantly striving to 
remove weaknesses that hold us back. Ah the great mnners have spent years working their way 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

up through the local and regional levels before achieving true national or world-class status. 
Results do not come from the previous month's training, but from years of dedicated 
development. One recent study quantified this, and found that an average of 10.2 years was 
needed for champions to develop. 

Joan Benoit did not become an Olympic Champion because of what she did in the weeks 
before the Games - she had laid the groundwork for her great mn with years of training. I ran 
the first eight kilometres of the Auckland Marathon with Joan many years ago, a race in which 
she won in only 2:31. Her “Super Abihty” was only hinted at then (she was already a great 
mnner), and has taken years to mature. 

The great African mnners who came to dominate road racing in the US have been mnning all 
their lives. They did not suddenly appear out of nowhere to beat the best runners in the world, 
but ran for years before reaching championship level. An African youngster mns as a way of 

Even the short track distances require a level of dedication which people do not normally 
associate with sprinting. Valery Borzov, the double Olympic Champion from the Soviet Union, 
had been working his way up through the various levels of local and regional championship 
mnning in Russia long before he “burst” upon the world scene in the early 1970s. 

Alan Wells, the massive Scot who won the 1980 Olympic 100- metre title, is known to be a 
prodigious trainer. He had many years of competition behind him before winning Olympic and 
Commonwealth championships. 

Finally, the example I tike best is that of British Olympic Marathoner Barry Watson. Barry was 
just a good club mnner in England in 1968 when he ran with our group, and when I left for New 
Zealand I forgot all about him. At the Montreal Olympic Games while I was training on the golf 
course near the Olympic Village with New Zealanders Anne Garratt (now Audain) and Tony 
Goode, however, “Eo and Behold!”, there was Barry Watson proudly bearing the Union Jack 
on his shirt. His first words to me were: “Gordon, you are a har! You said it takes six years of 
hard training to become a champion. It took me eight”. It had certainly taken Barry a bit longer 
than some, but he made it just the same. He was British Marathon Champion in 1976. 1 stick to 
that kind of yardstick. If you put in many years of hard work (with a tittle bit of luck and a lot of 
dedication), you will become a superb mnner, but you have to realise it takes this long, and 

It is important to train hard on a consistent basis. You must treat each day in training as if it 
were your last. You must be very lucky as well - with no major breaks for injury or itiness, or to 
meet the demands of your social life. It is necessary to give something up to make the most of 
your gifts as a mnner. The paradox in all this hard training is that short rests will be required as 
well. The body is not a machine! It cannot tolerate a never-ending diet of hard work. Hard 
training, carefully moderated with plenty of planned rest, must go on all year. You cannot afford 
to commit athletic suicide at the end of each racing season by giving up completely your hard 

Before you have taught yourself to train properly, you must become conscious of the necessity 
of mnning properly and take steps towards developing correct technique. The best training in 
the world will be worthless if proper technique is not employed. This vital factor in a mnner's 
development is all but ignored by most coaches. There are coaches and athletes who pay tip 
service to the importance of correct technique, but few make a serious attempt to teach it. 
When I point out bad technique, the standard response is: “I'm working on it”. They are usually 
still “working on it” years later, but have not changed at all. If an athlete is not mnning correctly, 
they do not just make inefficient use of their training time, but will suffer injury sooner or later. 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

Athletes who have access only to the volumes of bad information on technique being pedalled 
by the mnning magazines and shoe manufacturers, have no way of discovering the benefits of 
proper mnning style. Coaches who hold erroneous notions concerning what constitutes correct 
technique, or who refuse to acknowledge its importance, are short-changing their athletes, 
severely curtailing their ability, and inviting injury. 

The best athletes in the world - those who compete in the Olympic Games and World 
Championships - share specific technical traits. Developing these traits is as important to an 
athlete's progress as developing strength, speed and endurance. Specific information on the 
development of such proper technique is contained in Chapter Three. In this chapter, we shall 
examine some common technical errors, and look at ways in which the athlete (with the help of 
a coach) can correct them. 

The most common misconception concerning style becomes immediately apparent by looking 
closely at a typical pair of modem mnning shoes. I find it impossible to find mnning shoes today 
which are not heavily padded at the heel, and which have a relatively small amount of protective 
material under the ball of the foot - especially under the toes. Any athlete who has grown up 
wearing these shoes unfortunately comes to the conclusion that it is proper to mn by striking the 
ground with the heel first. This assumption follows from the way the shoes are designed, but is 
absolutely incorrect. You will not find athletes in the Olympic Games racing on their heels in 
heavUy-padded mnning “boots”. 

An entire generation of mnners is being destroyed (and/or prevented from achieving their full 
potential) because of having to mn in shoes which make correct technique impossible. This 
undoubtedly contributes to the mihions of injuries which keep mihions of mnners from training 
fuUy every year. 

It is important that a mnner uses correct technique from the very first to the very last step of 
every mn. The coach must begin teaching proper technique before any hard training is 
attempted. It is never too late to begin mnning correctly, no matter how long you have been 
mnning improperly. You can change! Running technique must be viewed as a ski ll and must be 
practised like any other ski ll until it is mastered, and becomes second nature. 

Let us start at the very beginning, with the person standing to attention in bare feet. Raise 
yourself up onto tiptoes, and overbalance forward. You must take a step forward to keep from 
faUing over. From the position which results (it is impossible to step forward onto the heel), you 
should begin to mn at a slow velocity - but with very light, quick steps - making sure to feel the 
stress on the toes. The mnner's legs should remain flexed at the knees. A feeling of “sitting” with 
the seat down “ lik e a duck” is employed with the body upright. An athlete who mns correctly 
will actually appear to be shorter than other mnners of the same height who are not mnning 
properly. By keeping his knees flexed and by landing on the ball of the foot on each step, and 
with the foot beneath the body, the mnner will spring along very quietly. As the weight of the 
mnner's body rides over the foot, the entire sole will rest fiat on the ground - do not remain like 
a ballet dancer on your toes throughout the weight-bearing phase. Ahson Roe did this, and was 
constantly injured. 

The mnner will generate more power and cover more ground with each stride by taking 
advantage of the springiness and power of the muscles in the feet and forelegs as well as the 
thighs. The mnner's tempo should be at least three steps per second. A person mnning correctly 
will make virtually no noise as he moves along. A conscious effort must be made to mn as hghdy 
as possible. The mnner must be aware of what his or her feet and knees are doing at this early 
stage (I think about my feet and knees, but avoid visual checks. Do not glance down constantly 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


like many mnners do, seeing if their legs are “looking good”). Try to maintain a quicker tempo 
than is natural. Don't lean forward. 

A mnner whose style causes him or her to overstride, striking the ground heel- first with 
straightened knee joints, is miming on a very short road to the doctor's office. 

During this initial teaching phase, the mnner should hold his arms close to the body without any 
movement at aU, and concentrate exclusively on what his feet and legs are doing. The ankles, 
calves and quadriceps are going to be working much harder than before. The mnner needs to 
mn only about 50 metres in this manner (stressing the bails of the feet, with quick, short steps 
which u t i li se aU of the muscles in the feet, calves and thighs). Don't lean forward. 

The mnner must get about 200 steps into these 50- metre jaunts, achieving a tempo of at least 
three steps per second. The coach must pay close attention to what each mnner is doing, and 
watch each mnner's style as they mn, making criticisms until proper technique is mastered. 

After the mnner has become conscious of using the feet and legs, he or she can then add the 
hands and arms into the miming motion. Take everything one step at a time. Make sure the 
mnner understands each aspect of the technique he or she is trying to master before moving on. 
At first, the only arm action allowed wiU be as a direct result of the energy from the feet and 
legs. The arms should be held with the hands close to the body, and the elbows bent at an acute 
angle (less than 90 degrees). The exercise described above is then repeated with the arms 
becoming more and more energetic with each repetition. The forward and backward strokes of 
the arms should form a quick, sharp, jabbing motion. This is done without excessive sideways 
movement. By this means, power from the arms wiU be transferred to the legs. (Note: While it is 
important that the forearms swing a httle across the body, they should not cross the midpoint of 
the chest, nor should the arms piston in a straight forward and backward direction). The result is 
increased efficiency and greater speeds, with no relative increase in physical power or energy 
expenditure. No movement should be made by the hunk! Don't lean forward. 

As you mn with your hands passing in this arc, at just about the line formed by your lower ribs 
and up across your breast, carry your hands lightly clenched, with the wrists locked and the 
palms facing the body. If the palms face the ground, your arms wiU take up a paddling, flipping 
action that wastes energy. If your palms are turned up to the heavens, the forearm will work in 
an exaggerated upper- cutting action which will force your hands too high, filling the body too 
much off the ground in a jumping type of action. The object of miming is to move forward 
horizontally at as great a speed as possible. If you keep your palms facing your body with the 
thumb and index finger lightly clenched, your arms wifi work in an efficient arc, close to and 
parallel with the body. The tendency at high speeds is for the arms to swing away from the body 
out of control. So, keep your hands under control, hooking the hands in close to the body. 
Your arms should then work in strong, stabbing thmsts. Keep your arm action vigorous and 
compact, and as tidy as possible. The sharp backward and forward “stabbing” and “jabbing” of 
the arms wifi then synchronise with the quick, sharp, vigorous power drive of the feet and legs. 
In order to illustrate the power that can be generated by the arms, the coach can have the 
athlete feel the force that should be applied in the arm movement by driving his fists (in a running 
action) into the mnner's upraised palms. After the athlete gets the feel of the amount of force 
striking his hands, he can then try the same exercise by driving his fists into the coach's upraised 
palms. The coach then removes his hands. The athlete must now stop the forward and 
backward motion of his fists h im self, at the same point at which the coach's palms were before 
they were removed. This sudden (voluntary) stopping of the forward and backward motion of 
the hands causes a reaction in the legs (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction). 
When the athlete does this in a standing position, he or she will notice a pronounced rotation of 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

the hips and pelvis caused by the sharp, strong “stopping” of the forward and backward motion 
of the arms. (Note: During mnning there should be no movement of the hunk. The body should 
be fixed and motionless, with the hard forward and backward pumping of the arms perfectly 
balancing the action of the legs. The greater mass of the legs and their powerful action will 
require a very vigorous action in the lighter, weaker arms for this balance to be maintained. 
Arms must work hard!). 

At this point, the athlete should be able to feel the advantages of: (1) a quick, hght step in which 
he or she lands on the balls of the feet under the body; and (2) an added strong, short and sharp 
arm motion synchronised with the legs. 

Now the athlete is ready to put these two aspects of their mnning together. The athlete should 
attempt to mn (landing on the balls of the feet) using the same quick, sharp synchronised action 
in both the arms and legs. If the mnner has these two elements in proper synchronisation 
(accomplished only through practice), they should feel themselves flying along further with each 
step yet traveUing close to the ground (without hfting the knees too high or extending the foreleg 
too far in front). He or she will look like Lasse Viren! The mnner will now feel the power they 
are able to generate with these strong, yet fluid and controlled body movements. The mnner will 
no longer feel compelled to “stride out” - that is, to throw the feet and legs forward in an 
exaggerated effort to “bite” more and more ground with each stride. The athlete's stride length 
will be determined by the amount of force generated by proper use of the feet, legs and arms, 
and should match the velocity of the mnning. 

Faster speeds will result in a longer stride, but a longer stride will not necessarily result in faster 
speeds. Don't lean forward. 

Overstriding is one of the most common technical af fli ctions of mnners, and one of the most 
dangerous. The danger in overstriding is that you hit the ground harder and harder with each 
step, actually jarring yourself to a partial (albeit brief) stop. This constant braking action results 
in very early fatigue, less than maximum speeds - certainly lower than would otherwise be 
possible - and bad injuries. 

A good example of an athlete whose performances were affected seriously by overstriding was 
British 400- metre mnner Adrian Metcalfe, who in a number of races overstrode terribly for the 
first 100 metres, before he became exhausted, and his high-jumping, leg- flicking, rope climbing 
style settled down. 

The athlete must constantly pay attention to his tempo, and strive for a quick, smooth, well co- 
ordinated mnning action. He must work hard to imprint proper techniques and attitudes onto his 
mental approach to mnning. Only by constant attention to the basics of sound technique can the 
developing athlete hope to make these fundamentals part of his athletic second nature. You 
have to train yourself to concentrate on every step of every mn. The body's centre of movement 
is located in the centre of the stomach. The arm position relative to this centre of movement 
decides your tempo. Thus, arms far away, spread out from the body result in a slow tempo, and 
a close compact posture produces a rapid/fast tempo. A good example is a skater who spins 
quickly when compact, but slows dramatically when the arms are thrown away from the body. 
To mn faster, therefore, keep tidy and compact. 

When the athlete wishes to speed up, he must compact up, quicken his tempo, and try to apply 
more power within these movements. The result is a mnning style that behes the amount of effort 
being utilised. 

Great mnners employ an elegance of style which makes them appear as if they are mnning very 
easily; observe the mnning styles of the hkes of Joan Benoit, Carlos Lopes or Lasse Viren. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


These great champions were so efficient they appeared to be mnning very easily, when in fact 
they were working very hard and moving extremely fast. 

It is important to maximise the power which is apphed in the fraction of a second that the foot is 
in contact with the ground. Following this concentrated power phase is a brief rest; a short 
hohday from effort until the other foot comes into contact with the ground on the next step. 

Percy Cemtty, the great Austrahan coach of Herb EUiott (1960 Olympic Champion who retired 
undefeated over 1,500 metres and 1 mile) observed that mnning is not a natural activity, but an 
unnatural endeavour which the prospective champion has to learn. It takes enormous 
concentration during training for an athlete to master the subtleties of correct technique. It is 
important to remember that the athlete cannot talk if he is mnning properly. If you are talking 
you are not breathing correctly, nor are you applying yourself to your mnning effectively. The 
mnner needs to concentrate on what he or she is doing at all times. 

To finish off this introductory training session, the athlete should put on a pair of shoes which do 
not inhibit proper technique (see Chapter Three for a detailed description of the characteristics 
of a well- designed mnning shoe). 

It is the coach's job to understand the requirements of proper technique, and to make sure that 
the athlete is aware of his or her technical errors and the means of correcting them. Coaches 
must moderate the amount of work they ask their athletes to perform during the first days or 
weeks after learning proper technique. Lik e any other aspect of training, the athlete's body must 
be allowed to adjust to the new experience of mnning correctly. With proper technique, the 
muscles of the feet and legs, as well as those of the arms and shoulders, will have to work 
extremely hard. Soreness and fatigue are the natural result, until muscle strength and fitness 
develop. The coach and the athlete must continue to proceed with caution and care. Hold back 
training volume, but maintain the frequency of training sessions. Two sessions a day for as httle 
as 10 or 15 minutes each are adequate until the athlete's muscles can cope with the new 
demands being made on them. 

No athlete should make a commitment to mnning which is less than that absolutely possible 
given his or her physical abihty. At the same time, however, too many coaches and mnners 
today take it for granted that all that is necessary to succeed is a wiUingness to work very hard, 
with miles and miles of training and endless stopwatch smashing, and a positive approach to 
training and racing. You must also mn correctly. You must control every aspect of the act of 
training and racing. It takes close attention to hfestyle and diet. It takes concentration on correct 
technique every step of the way. It takes a wiUingness to moderate aU aspects of your daily fife 
which may interfere with training. But, most of aU, it takes an understanding of exactly what is 
required to make the best of your mnning. The rest of this book covers the steps necessary to 
succeed - to attain the highest level you can. Failure to understand the means and objectives of 
correct training and technique wiU lead only to injury and fmstration, and an abandonment of 
that great gift to man - to mn like a deer. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



The three subjects cited in the title of this chapter are closely related, and yet, unfortunately, 
most athletes take injuries for granted - as going hand in hand with hard training - and usually 
view them as being the result of mysterious accidents. Injuries seem almost to be considered a 
matter of fate, utterly out of the athlete's control. Even Crete Waitz had this misconception. 
Crete said in hte 1984 that her body was beginning to break down under the strain of all the 
miles she had mn over the years. If that were hue, my body would have come apart in the 
mid- 1950s. It did not. Injuries need not occur at all. Of course, there are times when an unseen 
stone or tree root might send a runner head- over- heels to the infirmary, but most stress-related 
injuries keeping mnners on the sidelines are preventable. This is not to say that mnning-related 
injuries are not a serious problem, however, as evidenced by the rapid growth in recent years of 
a new medical specialty devoted to the care of injured athletes. 

It has become fashionable for so-called fitness experts to suggest that mnning is not the best 
way to get fit. These experts even suggest that mnning is not an activity the body was designed 
to do. This is mbbish! As long as the mnner (whether brand new to the sport or a grizzled 
veteran) is mnning correctly and training sensibly, there is httle to fear from stress-related 

Eet us begin our discussion, therefore, by considering the problem of the perpetually injured 
mnner. A mnner trying to solve the injury prevention puzzle must start with the most basic 
aspect of the activity. A person new to the sport or a much injured veteran will very likely need 
to start at square one. Most people who begin to mn, either competitively or for health reasons, 
believe that aU they need to know is the location of the nearest mnning shoe store. They dash 
out, pay a large sum of money for the latest mnning shoes, and start mnning. Most - about 70 
percent according to medical statistics - will be injured before they have broken in their new 
high-tech footwear, their legs usually being affected first. This injury cycle will continue 
unchecked until the mnner either quits in fmstration, or is forced to do so because he or she is 
too crippled to continue. 

It is absolutely essential that the mnner wears shoes which make correct mnning technique 
possible, and that he or she is constantly supervised until correct technique is mastered. This is 
the coach's most important job in the early stages of a mnner's development. There is no point 
in mnning large distances until the athlete has learned to mn correctly. I cannot emphasize this 
point enough. An athlete who mns correctly can train hard for years without any time lost to 
stress-related injuries. I have trained very hard for 45 years and have suffered only two or three 
injuries which have stopped me from training. My longevity is a direct result of paying close 
attention to the way I mn, and what I put on my feet. Shoes which enable correct mnning 
technique are essential. 

In many cases, it is possible to teU in advance what kind of injury a mnner will suffer from, by 
examining the way he or die mns. I can teU an injured athlete what error in mnning technique 
they are making from the particular injury they have. A specific injury may be caused by a 
particular type of mnning shoe, or a specific error in mnning technique. Over 70 percent of the 
mnning shoes on the market today are causing injuries by their design. By an amazing 
coincidence, this 70 percent figure corresponds to the percentage of mnners who are injured 
every year. 

It is not only essential to learn correct mnning technique, but equally vital to find a shoe designed 
to allow correct technique to develop. It is no coincidence that most mnners from developing 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

nations, many of whom grew up never wearing shoes, exhibit the best miming technique. We 
marvel over the incredible fluidity of the great African mnners, without ever stopping to consider 
the source of their grace and efficiency. 

Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympic Decathlon Champion from the United States, made video tapes 
of 100 champion mnners in Montreal in 1976 in order to evaluate their technique. It is 
common- sense to assume that the best athletes in the world (those who consistently place highly 
in major championships) share common technical traits. AH of the athletes fi lm ed by Toomey 
used the same basic technique - the same technique I use, and teach to my athletes. The athletes 
fi lm ed by Toomey all landed on the forefoot. None of the 100 landed heel- first! 

While poorly designed shoes and incorrect technique are the most common causes of injuries, 
however, they are certainly not the only ones. Other causes include: miming when ill or before 
full recovery; poor posture, leading to lower back and hamstring problems; motor vehicles, 
either knocking a mrmer off the road or causing injuries by their poor ergonomics, especially 
after hard mrming; insufficient rest; poor diet; poisons from various foods; and the environment. 
The best way to begin injury prevention is to learn correct technique and practice it constantly. 
A computer study of pressures on the foot during mrming indicated that the highest pressure and 
“wear and tear” zones were at the front and ball of the foot, and beneath the toes. Certainly, 
when one mns on the beach, one notices that the sand is dug up by the toes. The ball of the foot 
makes a strong print, while only a soft indentation is made by the heel. Amazingly, despite these 
straightforward observations, most mrming shoes are designed with the greatest amount of 
“protective” material at the heel. 

The champion mnners, who all have to mn correctly, do not make much noise when their foot 
lands. When the fastest mrmer mns, he is very quiet on his feet. Excessive foot noise indicates 
that you are striking the ground instead of caressing it. You are dissipating energy which should 
be utihsed in propelling yourself forward. This shows bad timing. The force to drive you forward 
should only be apphed after the foot has settled on the ground completely. Striking the ground, 
especially with the heel, causes trauma and makes the mrmer susceptible to injury. 

The nerves conveying tactile sensation from the foot are predominantly located in the forefoot. 
When the ball of the foot touches the ground, these nerves “alert” the muscles of the legs, which 
involuntarily react to absorb the shock of landing. If a person hits the ground heel- first, this 
reaction of the leg muscles will be considerably less, and consequently more shock will be 
experienced at the point of contact of the foot, and be transmitted to the bones of the leg. This 
jarring is guaranteed eventually to cause injury to the ankle, knee and/or hip joints. 

It is therefore important that a mrmer lands on the forward portion of the foot, with the knee 
shghtiy bent, and with the foot placed beneath the body. By doing so, the mrmer will make use 
of the body's own efficient shock absorbers - the arch of the foot, the calf muscles, and the 
quadriceps muscles in the thighs - and in this way reduce the stress experienced by the heel, 
shin bone, knee joint, thigh bone and hip joint. It is these areas which are stressed the most 
when the heel strikes the ground. 

An examination of the vast majority of mrming shoes on the market today reveals that the shoe 
manufacturers have made the mistaken assumption that mnners should strike the ground 
heel- first. Certainly, their advertising suggests that this is the correct technique. 

More and more people are discovering the satisfaction that mnning provides, and participation 
in the sport has exploded in the past 15 years. People entering the sport since the mid- 1970s, 
who know nothing but the heavily- built type of mrming “boot”, wrongly assume that it is proper 
technique to strike the ground heel- first with a straightened knee. They have made the mistaken 
assumption that the shoe manufacturers know what they are talking about. They do not! Most 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

of these runners, and many experienced mnners, are often injured and constandy fatigued 
because they have never been exposed to correct technique and footwear. They are being 
encouraged to mn incorrectly by the shoe design. 

So, stay off your heels! This mle apphes to mnning on any surface, in any terrain, and at any 
speed, either up- or downhill - with the exception of mnning downhill on loose sand or gravel. 
In the latter case, you should bury your feet heel- first into the ground to stop shding. 

When I mn a road race in the US or Europe, in the midst of mnners of every age and abihty, the 
noise of their feet crashing to the ground is deafening. This racket is caused by mnners slamming 
their feet into the ground heel- first. A mnner must land on the outside portion of the ball of the 
foot, with the knee shghtiy flexed. The knee should be flexed so that the large muscles of the 
thigh can aid in absorbing the shock of landing. The foot must land on the ground directly under 
the body (not way out in front as is often the case when a mnner tries to “stride out”, 
straightening the knee). When I am mnning with a group of athletes of my own height, I am 
lower than the rest in my mnning stance. My relative height is reduced because I am closer to 
the ground with my knee flexed during the weight bearing phase of the mnning stride - when the 
body is passing over the foot. This “low” mnning posture allows me to stay in contact with the 
ground longer, and makes it possible for m to generate more power during each contact 
power- phase with the ground. If a mnner is making full use of his feet and legs as shock 
absorbers, he will make httie if any noise when he mns, even on the steepest downhill stretches, 
because there is no vertical pounding of the feet and legs into the ground. The body will not 
crash down on the foot, but will pass smoothly over it. For most mnners, the timing of this 
action does not come naturally and takes a good deal of practice. Close attention needs to be 
paid to correct technique from the outset. A mnner must be as concerned about proper 
technique as a field- event performer or a hurdler. Hurdlers do not go over the barriers two legs 
at a time, because that technique is too slow. They work constantly at removing even tiny 
technical flaws, just as a flat mnner must. It may be slow- going at first, but the pay-off will be 
months and years of injury- free mnning. 

The human foot is the result of mi lli ons of years of evolution. The shoe companies want to 
change the design of the foot straightaway. Running in the cumbersome, orthopaedic boots that 
jam the display shelves in the typical mnning shoe store is akin to John McEnroe trying to play 
tennis with a baseball. 

Correct mnning technique will be prevented f the rear portion of the foot is hfted high off the 
ground by a mnning shoe with a larger volume of cushion material at the rear of the foot than at 
the front (I can always catch a girl in high heels). If the shoe raises the heel above the level of the 
ball of the foot, then the foot will be prevented from carrying out its full range of movement. In 
the normal case, you start with a flat foot and the calf muscle group fully stretched - the toe 
pressed into the ground. Your flexed knee sets the foreleg sloping forward. Then the calf 
muscles become well stretched, practically to their maximum, so that the full range of 
contraction can occur as the toes are driven into the ground at the finish of the power phase, 
and prior to the foot losing contact with the ground. 

With improper shoes, the heel is already up, and you lose a large proportion of your propelling 
capabihty. The result is reduced power, speed and efficiency. Thus, such shoes make correct 
technique impossible. A shoe with a wedged heel also causes premature contact with the 
ground by the heel, even before the full stride is completed. The result is a stubbing gait which is 
so common amongst joggers. They are nearly tripping themselves up with the heels of their 
shoes on every step. A high heel is also less stable than a flatter- heeled shoe. An kl e sprains are 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


a very common af fli ction among runners who wear such high- heeled shoes. It is no surprise that 
the high heel is quickly worn away - because it shouldn't be there! 

American tennis player Cathy Jordan, after missing a shot in the US Open, could be heard on 
television admonishing herself by shouting: “Bend your knees! Get on your toes!”. AH great 
athletes get on their toes. If you want to beat someone in any sport, all you have to do is to get 
them back onto their heels! Good technique requires the mnner to caress the ground with his or 
her feet, and to land with a shghtly flexed knee. But what do we see in the majority of cases? 
Straight- legged “mnners” pounding the ground with their heels. They end up crippled. 

People are advised not to mn because it will min their feet and knees. In 45 years, I have mn 
more than 240,000 miles without any major problems, and with more than half that distance 
covered on so-called hard pavement. Have I been lucky? No. I have merely employed correct 
technique, as described, and have been careful about the shoes I wear. 

There are few accidents in athletics if a mnner is successful (whether in terms of Olympic 
medals or just years of injury- free mnning), and there is a reason for this success. The most 
significant element is correct technique (made possible by good shoes). There is a lot more to 
mnning correctly than just getting your feet and legs working properly, however. What you do 
with your hands and arms is equally important. I have heard a number of well-known coaches 
teU mnners that it doesn't matter what they do with their arms. My response is to ask them if it is 
okay if I mn with one arm behind my back and the other between my legs. They look at me as 
if I've lost my marbles. Then I put both hands over my head and ask: “Is this okay?”. Or, m put 
my hands on my ears and ask: “How about this?”. If none of these methods of carrying your 
arms is correct, and if we eliminate aU the incorrect ways of using your upper body and arms 
(reductio ad absurdum in mathematics), we logically should arrive at something that works 
very well indeed. The best way to get a clear idea of how to use your hands and arms is to 
watch what the best mnners in the world are doing with theirs. You will not find sloppy 
technique among the vast majority of the best mnners. In any sport, the athletes we most admire 
are those who have the capacity to make everything they do look easy. The champions have an 
appearance of economy of movement which gives an illusion of ease. Those who are at the top 
are making maximum use of their bodies with powerful action. 

The way the human body is designed and put together demands that certain criteria be met for it 
to function the way it is supposed to. While it is important to take into account individual 
differences, the basic biomechanics required for maximum speed and efficiency will be the same 
for every mnner. AU humans have joints which bend the same way, and similar muscle elasticity 
and blood viscosity. 

Most mnners reading this book will not use their hands, arms, and feet enough. While we use 
our hands and arms in many activities on a day-to-day basis, the feet don't do much for most 
people except to give them something to stand on, and get them from place to place in an 
upright posture (if we are not too clumsy in the process). The same is tme for mnners. Most 
mnners only use their feet as a place to land on after each stride. The feet spend the vast 
majority of the time during training and racing on hoUday, doing nothing. If mnners wiU just make 
the connection between their brains and their feet, they will become very efficient indeed. Speed 
is initiated by strong feet and calves. 

A mnner, therefore, has to educate his or her feet to be very energetic, and to take an active 
role in moving around the track or down the road. The feet need to be used in much the same 
way as the hands are - with a feeling of control - and in a vigorous action that includes each and 
every muscle of the foot. The education of the feet is best accompUshed by practising 
exaggerated leg and foot exercises. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


My first coach back in 1941 was EJ. Holt. He was a trainer of many champion runners, as well 
as being one of the organisers of the 1956 Olympic Games. AH of his athletes did prancing and 
bounding exercises initially, to learn to mn. We often did this in bare feet, if the weather 
permitted. We learned to be very conscious of the role our feet could play in improving our 
mnning, and inhibited our arm action during this foot- education process so that our minds could 
focus entirely on what was going on at the end of our legs. Later, as we increased our velocity 
and skill, we employed more and more hand and arm action. These exercises taught our bodies 
spatial perception, motor control and the basic “nerve patterns” necessary for correct mnning 
technique. You can expect to be very tired and stiff in your feet and legs when you first do this, 
because the muscles in these areas are simply not up to the demands you are making on them. 
Keep at it, though, and the soreness and fatigue will pass. (It may help to massage the feet 
often). In this way, you will become a much better mnner. 

Correct mnning should feel like a series of very quick but powerful pulses, with the arms and 
legs working in unison, followed by a period of relaxed flying between each power phase. Try 
to take a quicker stride than is natural. Quicken up! Get your feet back onto the ground as 
quickly as possible. This can be achieved by strong arm- stopping, which causes the foot to land 
quickly but hghtly on the baU/front of the foot. Do not wait for the leg and foot to drift away and 
land on its own out in front whenever it wants. Make it snappy and quick. Do not float along. 
Watch mnners like Joan Benoit and Carlos Lopes; both employ quick but very powerful 
mnning actions. 

Breathing should match the quick, sharp rhythm your arms and legs have estabhshed. Breathe 
out with quick, short puffs, almost panting like a dog. Do not breathe in deeply! Lik e everything 
else we've dealt with so far, this powerful mnning action (including proper breathing) takes a 
great deal of practice. You will hear a lot of mnners encouraged to relax in the midst of a very 
hard training or racing effort. The relaxation should take place during the short passive 
(stationary) rest period between the power phases of each step of your mnning. Concentrate 
very hard on mastering this brief period of relaxation. A lazy, “relaxed” mnning style will not 
allow you to mn at your best. Running fast (whether a world record or personal best) demands 
an intensive, concentrated, powerful effort. Breathing as described assists in the physiology of 
circulation and gaseous exchange. 

Let us now take a closer look at correct arm action, firstly by examining examples of poor 
technique. There are many mnners who throw their arms across the body in great sweeping 
arcs. The result is that the legs swing in wide arcs also, and the mnner wastes a lot of energy 
going from side to side, instead of straight ahead. Leg injuries can result from mnning in this 
manner, as it puts a great deal of strain on the knee and hip joints, which are not designed to 
support a side- to- side and twisting action. Then there are mnners who take the arms along for 
the ride, carrying them uselessly at their side. The result of not using the arms effectively is very 
slow speed, and an excessive amount of stress put on the legs and mid- section of the body. A 
“stitch” is often the result of a jerky, twisting motion of the upper body, and stomach muscles 
trying to balance the powerful leg activity. The job the arms have to do! Back troubles leading 
to hamstring problems are another result of this “no arms” body twisting. 

The hands should swing up and across the body (remember the acute angle of the elbow), not 
quite reaching the centre hne of the chest. When you have this arm action mastered it will cause 
your footprints to follow a straight hne. This type of arm action will make the feet swing in 
shghtly, and the fx)t land naturally on the extreme outside edge of the bah of the foot. God 
designed the human foot to work in this way, with a nicely rounded heel, so that the foot can roh 
gently inwards as it takes and carries the fuh weight of the body. An arm action which is too 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

wide and sweeping, or is in any way haphazard, will make it impossible for the feet and arms to 
work in harmony. 

In proper mnning technique, therefore, the foot should land on its outer front perimeter, such 
that the footprint follows a straight hne. As the weight is borne by the foot, it rolls inwards until 
flat on the ground. If you mn incorrectly, for example by throwing the arms out wide to the sides 
and all over the place instead of puUing the fist and forearm in and across the body, the legs will 
also fly out wide of the straight hne track of correct mnning. This makes two distinct lines of 
footprints, with one for the left foot and the other for the right foot. As a result, the feet wiU not 
strike the ground on their outer perimeter, and in the worst case may even land on their inner 
perimeter. In the latter case, the foot wiU roll outwards and the shoes wiU become worn out and 
collapse on the inner side of the soles. This is what the shoe manufacturers try to counteract by 
putting ah sorts of boot- lik e stmctures on the heels of their shoes. If you correct your mnning 
technique, however, your shoes should wear properly without such alterations being necessary. 
Remember that the arms and fists are punched high and a httle across the body, and towards 
the centre of the chest. The other important factor in proper arm carriage is the position of the 
elbow when the arm swings back behind the body, with the hand at the side of the ribs. The 
most effective position is achieved by a closing of the angle of the elbow - a sharpening of the 
elbow position and a simultaneous controlled, tidy hand location - close to the side of the lower 
ribs. This is in contradiction to articles I have read in various mnning magazines. They say that 
you diould throw your hand down, back, and away from the body. You see this exhibited by 
many mnners. One of the worst examples is Lorraine MoUer of New Zealand. It is interesting to 
watch what happens to these loose- armed mnners in a tight race. When Moller ran in the Los 
Angeles Olympic Marathon, she and the rest of the mnners were following Joan Benoit up to 
about 20km. At this point, Rosa Mota and Crete Waitz piled on the pace with their compact 
and efficient mnning styles, but Moller could not respond, as her inefficient arm flopping actually 
prevented her from quickening her pace. Her arms absorbed energy from her legs, instead of 
adding to the force she was able to generate, and in the space of only two or three kilometres, 
Moller was left so far behind that she was out of sight on my video fi lm . Moller has been 
advised by a school of coaching which says: “It doesn't matter how you mn, especially with 
your arms. All you have to do is relax them” - even if this means dangling the arms. This is 
mbbish. Anne Audain has also degenerated to this arm flopping and danghng technique, and by 
a remarkable coincidence was also decimated in the Los Angeles marathon after about 20km. 
We see sprinters getting away with murder in the 100 metres as far as good arm technique is 
concerned, and even some of the best sprinters mn with bad errors in arm technique. As they 
go up in distance, however, this “sorts out” many of the bad mnners, and they get increasingly 
injured especially when negotiating bends. Even the 400- and 800- metre events see sloppy 
mnners, but in a Marathon such mnners only stay in the lead for a short time, if at all, with the 
increasing distance ehrninating them one by one, until the finish brings the cream to the top. 

The mling principles in correct mnning technique, therefore, are power and efficiency. It takes 
endless hours of practice to get it right, and it may be necessary at first to spend several days or 
weeks practising in bare feet in a nice, safe place such as a mnning track or strip of smooth 
grass. Take the development of proper style one step at a time. Be patient. There is no need to 
move on until you have mastered the ski ll you are working on. As you develop, continue to 
keep the ski ll s you have already mastered clearly in mind. It may be helpful to work with a 
partner or in a small group so that you can help each other as you go along. A knowledgeable 
coach is the greatest asset a mnner can have. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


After you have correct technique mastered, you can then move on to a training programme 
which will allow you to meet your goals safely, efficiently, and without injuries. 

What About Shoes? 

Now that we know something about correct technique, let us consider in more detail the type of 
shoes which wiU be of greatest benefit, and how to make them from the garbage produced by 
most shoe manufacturers. 

In bare feet, Abebe Bikela won the 1960 Olympic Marathon over the terrible streets of Rome 
on a course that included stretches of cobblestones. Bruce TuUoh won the 1962 European 
5, 000- metre championship in his bare feet, mnning the last three laps in just over three minutes. 
Similarly, in bare feet, teenager Zola Budd set world records over 2,000 and 5,000 metres, 
world junior records at 1,500 and 3,000 metres, and ran one mile in 4:17.55; she was also 
barefoot when she won the 1985 World Cross Country Championships. 

Look closely at the footwear worn in major championship events, and you won't see anyone 
competing in anything except the very hghtest racing spikes. No-one in the Olympic Games or 
World Championships races in the overstuffed, wedge-heeled orthopaedic boots that most 
joggers wear. This is not surprising, as the difference between mnning in barefeet and in the 
typical jogging shoe can be up to 30 seconds a mile, and I therefore advise all my trainees to 
wear the very lightest shoes they can find for training. These shoes should have the same amount 
of padding at the front under the toes as at the rear, with no wedged or flared heels. It is 
essential that the material under the toes of the foot be at least as thick as anywhere else in the 
sole, because 90 percent of the wear takes place under the toes when correct technique is 

Unfortunately, the ideal mnning shoe is not offered by most major manufacturers. Your best 
hope is to get the hghtest, most economically constmcted shoes you can find, then machine them 
to the correct specifications. The perfect mnning shoe should be something like a heavy-duty 
baUet shpper - simply an extra layer of protective material around the foot, like a glove. If you 
mn correctly, you will be able to wear such a shoe and never be injured. I once advised a 58- 
year- old marathon mnner, Ed Schaeffer, whose best time had been 3:28, to change his 
technique and shoes, with the result that his time immediately dropped to 2:58. He told me later 
it had been “easy” to mn 30 minutes faster! Another example was a 4:12.8 miler I retrained; he 
dropped his time to 4:02 in just three weeks. 

Now that you know what to do with your feet and legs, and understand how poorly designed 
mnning shoes contribute to both injury and slower mnning, how may we produce a shoe to fit 
your feet? 

We shall do this by taking a typical pair of mnning shoes, and reconstmcting them to the correct 
specifications. Eirstly, the shoe should fit properly; the foot will shp and shde in a shoe that is not 
close-fitting, resulting in a loss of performance as well as friction- related injuries such as blisters, 
which can lead to subtle changes in the way you mn, and predispose to more serious injuries. 
Ideally, the shoe should fit snugly “hke a glove”. 

Secondly, it is essential to prevent the most common injury directly related to poor shoe design, 
namely that to the Achi ll es tendon. A very quick way to guarantee yourself an injury to this very 
vulnerable part of your body is to allow any part of your shoe to impinge on the tendon - aU 
mnning shoes have a piece of material (either plastic or leather) that jams into the tendon when 
the foot is plantar- flexed (i.e. the toe is pointed down). Clearly, if you mn many miles, you will 
put a great deal of jabbing pressure on the soft Achi ll es tendon on every step, mile after mile. 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

With an Achilles “protector” on your shoe, discomfort or injury is guaranteed. The quickest 
remedy to this problem is to take a knife to the curved piece of shoe material and cut it off, so 
that the top of the shoe heel is level with the rest of the upper, and below the level of the soft 
tissue of the Achilles tendon. The top of the shoe heel must not be higher than the bony heel. 
Runners who come to me limping with very sore Achilles tendons are able to mn away with 
their pain reheved after this surgery is performed on the shoe (with the shoe removed, of 
course). This “operation” will make the shoe about half a size larger than it was originally, so 
bear this in mind when purchasing shoes. Thus, if you buy your shoes a bit snug and remove the 
heel tag before you wear them, Achi ll es tendon problems should become a thing of the past. 
Another problem related to shoe cfesign is the shape of the inside of the heel of the typical 
mnning shoe, which is different from that of the normal human heel, such that it only contacts the 
top of the heel bone. As a result, there is too much empty space around the base of the heel 
bone. This space needs to be fi ll ed in to provide a close fit around the entire heel. If left unfilled, 
the upper portion of the heel bone will receive excessive pressure because the shoe presses on 
the foot only on an area directly below the junction of the Achilles tendon with the heel bone. 
The result is severe bhsteiing in the short term, and heel spurs and Achilles tendonitis in the long 
term. To make the shoe conform to the shape of your heel, fill in the space with surgical 
padding, being very careful to ensure that the padding conforms exactly to the shape of your 

Clearly, this should be the job of the shoe manufacturers, and I discussed this problem with Adi 
Dassler, the late founder of Adidas, as early as 1959. He agreed with my evaluation of toe 
shape of mnning shoe heels (but, sadly, I stiU find it necessary to customise Adidas shoes). 

To summarise, therefore, friction interference of mnning shoes with the soft tissue of the Achilles 
tendon and bursae of the heel bone/Achilles tendon junction causes injury. Consequently, all 
parts of the shoe that impinge on this area should be removed. 

Contrary to what the shoe companies would have you believe, the foot is supposed to twist and 
roll as it goes through each contact phase with the ground, and yet they continue to come up 
with new ways to prevent the foot from moving in this way. The amount of movement varies 
from person to person, and depends on the strength and development of the intrinsic muscles of 
the foot and foreleg, and whether you land correctly with each foot. Putting aU sorts of excess 
materials and supposed clever ideas into mnning shoes (i.e. soles and uppers) has practically 
nothing to do with these foot movements. When the shoe is on the ground, it becomes a part of 
the ground and the foot does its necessary rolling and twisting within the shoe. If a shoe is made 
to become a straight jacket to prevent the natural movement of the foot - for example a ski 
boot, or a stiff mbber gumboot - you cannot mn, you hobble. You will only be able to carry 
out part of the physical movements, and apply only a fraction of the physical forces, that are 
essential to drive yourself forward at a fast mnning pace. This is easy to prove - go out and mn 
in bare feet, then start adding material onto your feet. You will slow down. 

The same apphes to shoes which interfere with the undersurface of the foot. Any change in the 
curvature of the sole of the foot caused by a shoe - for example, nylon pylons across the sole at 
the rear of the ball of the foot, hfted nylon rings around the spikes, and lumpy soles caused by 
the cut-away under the toes of most jogger's shoes (thus presenting a ridge under the padded 
ball of the foot) - will interfere with your abihty to mn. The rolled up toes common to most 
jogging shoes are the cause of the sharp pains in and around the joints between the toes and the 
metatarsals famihar to most mnners. Any departure from the natural shape of the foot will 
interfere with your ability to mn, and lead to injury. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


The current infatuation with exotic running shoe design has not always been in effect. When I 
began running back in 1939, everybody used a “phmsoll” - the Enghsh name for a very light 
canvas tennis shoe, which could be bought from Woolworth's for just a few pennies. Most of 
the mnning we did in those days was through the woods and over the downs - those rolling hills 
so typical of the English countryside. The North Downs Escarpment in Surrey, where a great 
deal of our training was done, is particularly steep and mgged. There are footpaths through the 
woods and fields, and the going is beautiful, with reasonable green grass in the spring and 
summer, and lovely mud in the winter. The woods and fields are interlaced with miles of 
hedge- hned country lanes, barely wide enough for two cars to pass. The surface of these old 
roads is not particularly hard, and is smooth and firm. The countryside around our home at 
Coulsdon stretched out for miles hke this in every direction. Access from our street was straight 
up a 250-foot hiU at a gradient of about one in three. Every mn we did started up that hi 11 
outside our front door - flat-out (with no stretching exercises!). 

Our school races from Purley County Grammar School - which is situated on top of one of 
those rugged hiUs - started with a three-quarter mile descent, then rose sharply up another hiU to 
the top of the Downs, leveUing off for about half a mile along the summit, before descending 
again into the valley. These races finished with another stiff c lim b back to the school. We 
became very ski ll ed at streaking down and smashing up any hiU with enough energy left to sprint 
away at the top. Our “sand shoes”, “plimsolls”, “tennis shoes” - call them what you will - were 
superb and injury- free equipment. 

In later years I got hold of a pair of hand-made leather “G.T. Eaw” cross country shoes with 
steel spikes in the soles. They were excellent for cross country racing, but it was not a good 
idea to mn on country lanes with them. Eeather shoes like those cost a lot of money, and were 
something of a luxury. I wore away the steel spikes of this particular pair, and repaired them 
myself with sail maker's gear - a hard leather th im ble and a large needle - replacing the sole 
after putting new steel spikes in place. Even though I worked at keeping these shoes together, 
they did not last long enough; not because my skills as a cobbler were particularly lacking, but 
simply because I ran too many miles in those fine shoes. 

Most of the time we trained in our plimsolls. The plimsolls were smooth- soled, so we had to 
concentrate very hard on staying on our feet when mnning on shck or muddy ground. We 
became very strong as a result. The constant hiU mnning, the mud and the smooth- soled shoes 
meant that we had to develop efficient technique! 

Cross country racing in England has always been a very tough game. It has absolutely nothing in 
common with what passes for cross country in the US and in World Cross Country 
Championships. The courses we ran traversed newly- ploughed fields, swampy areas and very 
tough hills. The mnners had to be strong to mn on these courses, which covered distances of up 
to 10 miles. These races sorted out the men from the boys in a hurry! I believe this tough style 
of cross country mnning is a major reason why the British have had so many great mnners. The 
cross country season mns from September to March in England, which is not exactly the dry 
season, so shoes are very important. I began mnning with very httle appreciation of just how 
large a part shoes play in an athlete's success, but discovered the hard way that if you wear the 
wrong shoes, you cannot perform at your best, and you will be beaten. 

One year I used a pair of “studded” hockey shoes that were constmcted in a similar fashion to 
high-topped basketball shoes. It was necessary to cut off all the extra ankle material to make 
them flexible enough for mnning. Another type of shoe I tried was a Canadian- made 
cushion- soled basketball shoe. These shoes were extremely comfortable, which is why I chose 
them! However, in hindsight, that was no criterion for judging the suitabihty of a mnning shoe. I 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

ran a cross country race of five miles in those shoes, which was a serious mistake. The rest of 
the field, including my brother Peter, were usually easy to beat by a minute. But with those 
boots on my feet, they kept up with me. I learned that these heavy- soled “boots” were useless 
for racing unless I wanted to lose. They were a lot hke the orthopaedic mnning boots most 
joggers wear today. I did not make the same mistake of wearing those shoes in a race again. 
Since then, I have learned that even training in shoes hke that damages a mnner's ski ll so much 
that you cannot race effectively. They cause an athlete to mn incorrectly, develop improper 
technique, and become injured. 

I had my first pair of track- racing spikes made to measure by Law's of London in 1948. They 
were much hghter than my other cross country shoes. I raced in them until after the 1952 
Helsinki Olympic Games. I think I lost a medal in those Games because the spikes in this 
particular pair of shoes had been worn down from their normal length of 10mm to less than 
2mm, rendering them useless - though I was supremely ignorant of that at the time (I came 
fourth). I think that I might have been in contention in that 5,000- metre race when the sprint 
started if those shoes had had any steel left in them to grip the track. Their leather soles were 
scored with long abrasions as the toes of my feet dug away at the cinder track, shpping at every 

So much for my early ignorance of the importance of proper shoes. Today, I am very particular 
about the shoes worn by the athletes I train. I teach all my mnners to train in the hghtest shoes 
they can find. Anne Audain told a mutual friend in 1982: “Well, at least one good thing Gordon 
Pirie taught me was to wear hghtweight shoes”. In recent times, Anne has mn in heavier shoes; 
and has had a good dose of injury as a result. 

In the 1952 Olympics, Bronze Medalist Herbert Schade of West Germany wore a pair of red 
shoes that caught everyone's eye. The colour was very unusual because all mnning shoes then 
were made of black or brown leather. Through Schade at Helsinki, I met Dassler, a stocky, 
genial man who was never without a cigar in his mouth. He was the man who had made 
Schade's red shoes, and he offered to give me a pair. Nobody in England had offered me such 
help. This was a very welcome development, because I had been making my badly worn shoes 
work for over two years, even after they had become useless. 

This brief episode began the “Pirie- Adidas connection”, an association that has lasted for well 
over 30 years. I have mn with Adidas shoes since that first meeting with Dassler, and have 
found them better than most other brands. From time to time, I lived at Adi Dassler's home, and 
worked closely with h im at the Adidas factory bench in Herzogenaurach. It was we who 
designed the present day track spike layout in Adidas track shoes. Prior to this time, Adidas 
track shoes had had a large spiked area well back under the arch of the foot. These rear spikes 
were not necessary and got in the way. I told Adi to get rid of them. He did. Today, with most 
track racing done on mbbeiised surfaces, the track spike layout needs to be changed once 

Dassler used many of my ideas when he redesigned his mnning shoes during the 1950s. The 
wedged sole for what became the Adidas “Interval” shoe was our design, and was first 
constmcted right there at the Adidas factory bench for Shirley Pirie to sprint in. Today, Adidas 
has become a huge conglomerate, and no-one seems to be able to get a good idea into its 
impregnable corporate machinery. The type of close work I did with Adi Dassler has become 
impossible, and shoe designs have suffered accordingly. 

To test the shoes we designed, I ran hundreds of miles in each pair and wrote a log of the 
mileage on each shoe. I then posted the shoes back to Adi so improvements could be worked 
out. The biggest breakthrough we made was to find the answer to the problem of worn steel 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

spikes, which had cost me a better result at Helsinki. All racing shoes in those days had fixed 
spikes. Once the steel had been ground away by the cinders, which I managed to do in about 
200 miles of hard mnning over a week or two, the shoes had to be discarded, even though the 
upper might stiU be perfectly good. I discussed this problem with Dassler, and asked why the 
shoes didn't have steel spikes that could be replaced. I was throwing away shoes by the dozen. 
The answer was surprising simple: we came up with the idea of screwing the spikes in and out 
of the shoes so that the steel could be replaced, and, even better, changed to suit different track 
surfaces. Because Dassler was wilhng to work closely with an athlete like me to improve the 
design of his shoes, his company became the first to come out with track shoes with replaceable 
spikes. Ironically, I nearly lost my amateur status at that time because every box of Adidas 
shoes contained a picture of me mnning a world record in Adi Dassler's bright red track shoes! 
(Although I never made any money out of this - a fact that seems incredible in comparison with 
today's hyper- commercial world). 

I had a difficult time getting Adidas shoes introduced into England. I tried initially in 1953 and 
1954 to have the shoes sold in English sports shops, but failed. I took a pair of Adidas shoes 
into one famous Eower Regent Street shop, EiUywhites, and was told by the buyer there that: 
“These things will never sell!”. 

In recent years, I have had ideas about mnning shoes which are just as revolutionary as those 
pursued with Adi Dassler in the 1950s, but my ideas are just too radical and advanced for 
Adidas. Sadly, Adi died a few years ago, and his huge corporation has become completely 
divorced from the grass roots of 4ie sport. Eor example, I had a meeting with Horst Dassler 
(who took over the management of Adidas some time ago), at which I told him I thought that 
certain Adidas shoes were being constmcted according to improper ideas. His answer was that 
the company had spent a large sum of money on a “motion study” of mnners before designing 
that particular pair of shoes. I laughed, and told h im that he could have paid me half that 
amount, and I would have come up with a better design. I told Horst Dassler that Adidas 
obtained flawed results in their expensive study because the mnners they examined were not 
mnning properly. Sadly, he ignored my suggestions, and it seems that mnning shoes have 
become httle more than an injury- producing, speed-reducing fashion statement. 

EinaUy, I have two brief observations to make concerning the materials with which mnning 
shoes are constmcted. Eirstly, if you are mnning correctly your shoes will wear out initially at a 
point directly under your toes. You can prove this by taking off your shoes and going for a short 
mn (on a safe surface, of course) in bare feet. Very quickly you will find you develop blisters on 
your toes. If you mn correctly, the same thing will happen to your shoes; they will wear out 
under the toes. I can wear out a pair of standard jogging shoes, made with a thin layer of 
material rolled up under the toe, in just one long hard mn on abrasive pavement. It is very 
important, therefore, for the toe area of your mnning shoes to be constmcted of the toughest 
possible material, and to be of adequate thickness. 

The second point concerns the material that makes up the sole of your shoe, because if the sole 
is too soft, you will lose stability. Any soft, mushy material between your foot and the ground 
will decrease the amount of stabihty the shoe provides, and will also absorb much of the power 
you should be using to mn with (try mnning on a trampoline or a high jump pad; it is simply not 
possible). Buy shoes that are not too soft, therefore, and do not under any circumstances put 
anything soft inside your shoes. You will defeat the purpose of buying a firm, lightweight shoe in 
the first place. Instead of looking for padding, learn to mn properly, so that you stop punching 
holes in the ground with your feet. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Pur ley. 

1946 (can you spot Gordon?) 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



In this chapter, we wiU examine the specifics of how to prepare yourself to compete over the fuU 
range of racing distances - from 100 metres up to the marathon. The specifics of training for 
each group of distances may be different, but the basic principles remain the same, regardless of 
whether the athlete's race lasts a few seconds or for several hours. The goal of training is to 
prepare the body to cover a particular distance as quickly as possible. The key to a sound 
training programme is understanding what is required in order to accomphsh that goal. 

How To Run A Race 

The purpose of training is, of course, to race over your speciahty as quickly as possible. In 
order to understand exactly how to go about training for a race, we must first know what a race 
is and how to run it. 

If you came from outer space, knew nothing at aU about mnning, and I challenged you to a race, 
how would you go about preparing? Let us say that you have a month to get ready. I have 
shown you the starting and finishing lines. It is irrelevant what the distance is - you, the 
Spaceman, have no concept of Earth distances anyway. The answer to my question as to how 
to train is to stand at the start and run to the finish hne as fast as you can. Then you will take a 
rest, and do it again and again until you have become good at it. On the day of the race, our 
Spaceman will set off as fast as possible in an attempt to get away from his competitors. He 
knows from his training what pace he can endure. He knows that if it is difficult for him, it is 
likely to be difficult for the others, too. The harder he runs, the greater his chances of defeating 
the others. If another runner hangs on to him, he knows that he either has the other mnner at his 
mercy, because this fellow is hanging on, or, alternatively, the other runner is dangerous because 
he is attempting to pass and take over the pace himself. If it is a “hanger on” situation the 
Spaceman will attack, and accelerate in an effort to detach h im self. If, on the other hand, it is a 
“cheeky challenger”, the tactics must be different. Let him take the lead for a spell. If the fellow 
is strong, you must keep up at aU costs. Keep up and gather yourself for a finishing sprint. This 
is the hard part. You must wait and be very alert, for your competitor is going to do the same 
thing. You have to strike first to get a lead of a few feet or yards, you hope, before he himself 
attacks. If the other runner gets his sprint in first, you must go with him instantly, striving to wear 
him down and finally pass him in the last few yards. 

Thus, in a race, one must never give a competitor ai advantage. A good example of this 
happening occurred in the World Record Mile of 1985, in which Sebastian Coe allowed Steve 
Cram to steal a considerable lead in the second lap. Coe then used up his reserves to catch up 
again in the third lap, and as a result lost the capacity for his legs to sprint, and hence the race. 
You have to keep in contact with your closest challengers the whole of the distance, Mr Coe! 

Interval Training 

Let us now look at the fundamentals of Gerschler's classic Interval Training Protocol, in the 
hope of shedding some hght on this clouded subject; and in the process do away with the myths 
that have grown up around it. 

Gerschler's system embraces all distances from 2,000 metres down to 100 metres. His 
statement that you can achieve full development in winter training through the use of only the 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

three distanees of 100, 200 and 400 metres has led to the popular misconception that Gerschler 
and his champions only trained in this way. Wrong! Even Rudolf Harbig, World Record Holder 
for 400 and 800 metres, ran stretches of 2,000 metres in his preparations for races. This is a 
typical training day taken from Harbig's Diary: 

40 mins easy mnning; lx2,000m; 20mins jog; 2xl,000m; 12mins jog; 2x600m; 12mins jog; 
2x300m; 8mins jog; lx200m; 6mins jog; IxlOOm; lOmins jog. 

Interval mnning, properly apphed, is not only scientifically sound, but is also the most efficient 
and quickest way to bring an athlete up to a high standard. Improperly applied interval training 
has led to this time-honoured and well- proven system being mahgned and blamed for athletes 
experiencing aU kinds of difficulties. This is because careless apphcation of interval mnning can 
damage mnners. On the other hand, when it is apphed inteUigently, its results can be nothing 
short of miraculous. The plain tmth about interval mnning is that it serves the purpose of 
developing the heart, circulation and muscles better than any other system. Its beauty is that it 
does so in a fraction of the time required by long slow distance (LSD) training. 

The longer stretches of race distance together with middle distance are an indispensable part of 
Gerschler's system, which is now weU over half a century old. It preceded ah other such 
systems of training, and it should be appreciated that Gerschler was the foremnner of a long line 
of experts who have put forward his ideas as theirs. 

Much of the difficulty many athletes have with interval training is that they approach it like a 
competition. Gerschler's motto for interval mnning was: “Take it easy”. As I started my faster 
mns in an interval session, he always called to me: “Langersammer (Slower)!”. You should take 
an interval session in your stride, mnning well within your capabihties. We cmised around the 
faster sections of our mns with controlled power. As a result, even after 80x200 metres I was 
stiU able to go for a mn around the forest in Freiburg for another 3 miles or so, and then be 
ready for more later in the day. It was a very enjoyable way of mnning, but involved a lot of 

The following factors should be carefully controlled in an interval session: 

1. Speed. The pace should be such that the athlete is able to complete the whole session 
without undue difficulty. 

2. Distance. The distance mn in this type of training should not be longer than the athlete can 
comfortably achieve at the required pace. 

3. Repetitions. The athlete should not be expected to repeat a distance during a training 
session more often than he is comfortably able to do. 

4. Continuous motion. The athlete should mn at a comfortable pace between fast mns to 
assist in the recovery process. 

5. Variation. Distances and speeds should be varied from session to session to maintain 

6. Technique. Training sessions should provide the coach with an excellent opportunity to 
monitor his athlete's technique. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


During an interval session, a given fast stretch should be run at least 10 times, with the interval 
between runs being determined by the time required for the athlete to recover physiologically. 
This can be calculated by monitoring the athlete's pulse rate during the recovery interval. The 
aim is to mn with sufficient speed to stimulate a highest pulse at the end of the fast stretch of 180 
beats per minute; that is, 18 beats in 6 seconds. Recovery at this top end of the heart's effort 
occurs so rapidly that the best way to count the pulse rate is electronically. Failing this, measure 
the pulse rate at the wrist, on the left breast, or on the carotid artery (one only!), using toe 
fingertips. An actual 180 max im um heart rate may be indicated by a 17 count in the first 6 
seconds, because of the rapid initial drop of heart rate. 

The interval should be mn at a continuous trot, and with the same rhythm that is used in the fast 
mn; the breathing rhythm should also be identical. This assists greatly in the recovery process. 
The interval's length is again decided by the heart's behaviour. When the heart rate has fallen to 
120 beats per minute - 12 beats in 6 seconds - the recovery is complete and the next fast 
stretch can be mn. As one might expect, the interval after the first few fast sections will initially 
be short, and then progressively lengthen to a standard interval as the heart takes on the full 
workload of the training session. A typical workout, say 20x200 metres, might see a set of 
intervals as follows (for a particular athlete at one stage of his development): 

No.l X 200m : 
No.2 X 200m : 
No.3 X 200m : 
No.4 X 200m : 

25 secs interval. 
35 secs interval. 
45 secs interval. 
55 secs interval. 

The next 14x200m mn might require a standard interval of 60 seconds. As fatigue sets in after 
this, and the “rest” interval required extends to 65 seconds, stop running! 

Progress is indicated by an improvement in the required rest interval (i.e. it gets shorter), and 
also by an increase in the number of repetitions which can be mn before the onset of fatigue. In 
addition, progress should be accompanied by an abihty to mn the fast section at a greater speed 
without breaking the top pulse mle (i.e. keeping the max im um pulse rate below 180 per minute), 
which should cx:cur with ease, and without extra effort. 

The usual times taken to mn 100 metres vary from 20 seconds for the beginner down to 15 
seconds for the highly trained athlete. The equivalent figures for 200 metres are 40 and 30 
seconds, and for 400 metres 80 and 60 seconds, respectively. 

The number of repetitions which can be mn varies from 10 up to as many as 40. Even more can 
be handled by a world record mnner. Before the latter state is reached, however, it will be time 
to progress to other types of training (described later). 

Interestingly, during interval training, most development occurs during the interval; this was the 
conclusion reached by Waldemar Gerschler and Professor Reindel at the Freiburg Sports 
Institute after many years of research on thousands of subjects. Consider this quote from an 
article by Gerschler himself, which appeared over thirty years ago in the magazine “World 

‘Tips From The Tutors 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Athletes are often uncertain about what distances they should cover in training, and how fast 
and how often they should run them. Again and again, THEY TEND TO GO TOO EAST IN 
TRAINING, especially at shorter distances (writes Waldemar Gerschler). 

Winter training can be arranged simply yet effectively if two distances are concentrated on - 
100 and 200 metres - with jogged intervals between them. 

A sprinter capable of running 100m inside 11 secs might reasonably take 12-13 secs for his 
training mns. A 400m man under 50 secs might cover 100m in 14-15 secs; the 800m man 
under 1:53 and a 1,500m mnner under 3:50 in 14-15 secs; the longer distance mnner inside 
14:30 or 10,000m inside 31 mins in 16- 17 secs. The jogged interval 100m should take 30 secs 
if the athlete is highly trained, 45 secs if in the intermediate stage and 60 secs if he is a beginner. 
These times may seem quite modest but from the training angle they are rather fast - in fact I am 
sure many wiU need to make them more modest stiU. The time of the mn is of only secondary 
importance; more important is the timing of the intervals, and it is vital to adhere to these. 

At the beginning of an athlete's training his effort should not be forced; growing fatigue indicates 
it is time to stop. But after three or four months a good athlete who has been training four or five 
times a week should cope easily with 40 repetitions. (The sprinter should not aim at 40 
repetitions; about 20 wiU be better for him). 

Eor training at 200 metres, the sprinter might mn that distance in 25-26 secs, the quarter miler in 
28-30 secs, 800 and 1,500m men in about 30 secs, and long distance runners in 33-34 secs. 
The intervals between repetitions wiU, like those for the 100m training, depend on the athlete's 
abihty: if in the intermediate stage, 60 secs; if a beginner, 75 secs. After three or four months, 40 
repetitions should be reached. 

Cross-country miming in the winter provides good training, but the sprinter should not 
participate. It should be remembered that the athlete himself can find what suits him best, by 
personal experience and observation. 

An athlete not being trained by a coach should set h im self a long term target. Eor instance, a 
middle distance mnner over 20 years of age may say to h im self that after three or four months 
of winter training he wiU (what a significant word, that “wih”!) mn 40x200m in 29-30 secs 
without looking particularly strained. Between each 200m he wiU jog for 60 secs. If he has been 
building up over a considerable period of time, say four to five years, he can aim at reducing his 
jogged interval to 45 secs. 

Two other sessions he might do are 40xl00m in 14.5 secs (or 15 or 16 secs, to be decided by 
an expert), with a jogged interval of 30 secs, and 30x400m in 70 (or 72) secs, with a jogged 
interval of 60 (75 or 90) secs. 

And, finally, remember that strength is vital in sport. If you think you are insufficiently strong in, 
say, the chest, arms and legs, train with weights.” 

Bearing in mind the above quote from Gerschler, here is how to put together a training session 
which effectively employs interval training. Begin with gentle activity. Since your last training 
session your body has no doubt drifted into a lazy state. You may be apprehensive about 
training because you go too hard at it. 

Begin by relaxing your mind; go slowly. Even walk to start off with, then mn easily but with a 
quick rhythm, for about 20 minutes. Most athletes do not warm-up enough. If possible, do this 
warm-up away from the track; in a park, woodland, or anywhere where you can concentrate 
on your technique and breathing. Never step straight out from cold and do those sihy stretching 
exercises. Don't do static stretching at all; this is associated with injuries. Always mn easily for 
10 to 15 minutes before any exercises. Then do 5 minutes of exercises, which should mainly be 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

free movements, imitating the actions of mnning. These involve a fairly large range of movement, 
so will allow you to mn more freely. 

Now you are ready to start the interval mnning itself. Change into racing shoes. If the session 
calls for 200m in 32 secs, start easily with, say, 38 secs, using the first few to work down to the 
required time. The times should go about: 38, 36, 34, 33, and, finally, 32 secs. If jou have 
never done this kin d of training before, you will have to estabhsh the interval that is appropriate 
for your physical condition. Lie down for the intervals and count your pulse as described earher. 
The first few rests will be short, but should settle down to a steady length. The pulse rate might 
be: 17, 17, 16, 16, 16, 15, 15, 15, 15, 14, 14, 14, 13, 13, 13, 12, for the 6 second groups, 
making a total time for full recovery of 80 seconds. Note that a jogging interval will be longer, 
by about 10 seconds. Now you can transfer to a jogging interval of 90 seconds, checking the 
intervals every 5th one. When the standard resting time lengthens beyond 90 seconds, STOP 
RUNNING. Coincidentally, your body will also teU you to stop at about this point, as you will 
probably experience extra fatigue. 

Note that the max im um pulse rate you will be able to count is only about 170 beats per minute, 
because the heart rate quickly decreases below these high levels. If you have an electronic pulse 
monitor, however, you may catch these top pulse levels during the last moments of mnning hard. 
If you do count 18 beats in the 6- second measurement periods, slow down your fast mn so that 
the first count is only 17 beats in 6 seconds. 

Control the interval at all times by reference to the stopwatch, and not the distance mn. Thus, 
for example, beginners may only need to mn 100 metres to raise their pulse to the required level 
of 180 beats per minute; some may need to mn no faster than 20 seconds for their 100- metre 
repetitions to do this. 

Your development can readily be assessed by analysing the changing parameters of your 
interval training over a period of time. As you progress, you will find that the rest your heart 
needs between each hard mn will shorten dramatically, the number of repetitions (reps) that can 
be managed easily will increase, and the actual distance you will be able to cover will extend 
from the starting distance of 100 metres to 200m, 400m and so forth, as laid down in 
Gerschler's “World Sports” article. 

It therefore follows that as you get fitter, the interval sessions will get easier in every way, and 
you will be able to spend less and less time at your training! 

I have mn crazy interval sessions, though today I do not think that they were necessary in such 
prodigious amounts. Here are some examples of those sessions: 

100 X 100m 15 secs, jog 20 secs. 

80 X 200m 29 secs, jog 30 secs. 

54 X 400m 64 secs, jog 45 secs. 

These training protocols were complemented by doing a one- hour warm-up, and 20 minutes of 
easy mnning afterwards. Some sessions embraced a total mnning time of over three and a half 

Today, however, after years of experience with the interval training technique, we know that it is 
sufficient to work up to a point where you can mn 10 to 20 x 400m in around 60 seconds, with 
an interval of 25 to 30 seconds. When you reach this point, you are then ready to move on to 
greater things, and a conversion takes place from interval training to preparation for racing. 
Racing requires short periods of higher speeds and/or continuous speeds plus “high speed”, in 
order to enable you to win races at the finish. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


At this stage of training, you should start race simulation, and fast and hyper- fast training, 
interspersed from time to time with a session of interval miming (but not too close to a race). 
Race simulation involves the following: 

1 - Run stretches in which you race hard all the way over 30 to 40 minutes. 

2 - Run the race distance hard. 

3 - Run the race speed as far as you can, and repeat it. 

These activities should come together over a period of about 6 weeks. For example, a 5,000m 
mnner attempting to mn 14 minutes may try to mn 68 seconds per lap all the way. This speed 
will be adequate because the “average” time will be upgraded by a fast final lap. He therefore 
must practice 68 seconds per lap for the greatest distance he dares and can manage. The next 
step would be for him to mn 14 minutes hard to accustom himself to the duration of the race 
effort, and then to mn 5,000m time trials on the track. 

Time trials are an indispensable part of training. At the beginning of the season (first time trial), 
one usually manages to cope with 2 or 3 laps before losing speed and coming apart in every 
way. On the second time trial, I usually find I have improved, and manage five or six laps before 
crashing. After half a dozen trials, my psychological attitude has reached the stage where I am 
thinking: “There's only 12 laps left, lets go! Speed up! Speed up!” instead of stmggling 
negatively to finish the mn. My legs “Speed up!” to mn tike a well-oiled machine, instead of 
negatively stmggling. Most mnners never reach this stage of pure attack even in racing, either 
because they become discouraged during their early lime trials, or because they haven't done 
any! Despite miming world records, I had to go through this psychological and physiological 
phase at the beginning of every racing season - and so must you. You must cope with this if you 
want to win. You must build up your mind along with your body. You forget what hard effort 
was required last year in order to mn super- fast times now. 

Keep the notion of continuous motion in mind at all times. Interval training on its own can 
overtire and even destroy you. It is important to fuUy uti li se all elements of a balanced training 
programme - interval training, longer stretches, general miming and strength training - throughout 
the year, but to change the emphasis as your condition improves and your racing season 
approaches. Keep off the energy- absorbing intervals - this is where most athletes make their 
biggest mistake. As an athlete gets super- fit, the coach makes him mn more and more sessions 
of 200- and 400- metre repetitions in hyper- fast times with shorter and shorter rest intervals. It 
certainly looks good in the training reports, but doing this sort of training will quickly turn a 
champ into a chump. Interval training is very destmctive unless Gerschler's mles are adhered to. 
Thus, take it easy with proper speeds, proper mnning rest intervals and proper distances. 
Where high racing speeds are desired, hyper- fast mns are needed, to be followed by a 
generous period of passive recovery (even as much as 20 minutes). Note that this is not interval 
mnning, and a different set of mles apply. An example of this type of training protocol would be: 

400m (down to 50.0), rest 20 mins, repeat 4-8 times. 

600m (down to 1:14), rest 20 mins, repeat 4- 8 times. 

800m (down to 1:50), rest 20 mins, repeat 4-8 times. 

1,000m (down to 2:28), rest 20 mins, repeat 4-8 times. 

1,200m (down to 2:50), rest 20 mins, repeat 2-6 times. 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

2,000m (down to 4:58), rest 20 mins, repeat 2-3 times. 

The number of fast mns performed is inversely proportional to speed. Thus, the faster you go, 
the fewer such mns you will be able to manage. In ideal weather conditions, the rests should be 
passive (stationary) rest, and not mnning, followed by a mini- warm-up (e.g. one lap of jogging 
containing three or four accelerations over 10 to 15 metres). Following this, walk around for a 
minute or two gathering yourself for the fast mn. 

In order to deal with this type of faster training, we need to add some introductory speedwork 
to your warm-up. After the easy mnning and exercises, put on your spiked shoes and mn 
6x100 metres, beginning tightly and working up to the speed you will employ during your 
hyper-fast mns (e.g. 16, 15.7, 15.3, 14.9, 14.5, and 14.0 seconds per 100 metres). Between 
these easy warm-up sprints, jog- walk back to the start tine. It is important to measure these 
speeds carefully because you are trying to develop fine judgement of the exact pace you will 
utilise in the fast time trials. A feeling of good rhythm and correct effort, plus proper technique, 
are all reinforced during this introductory warm-up “speed” mnning. 

During your hyper- fast mns you will need to be given appropriate intermediate times, so that 
you can further develop sound pace judgement. For example, an athlete attempting to mn 400 
metres in 50 seconds should pass 100 metres in 12.8, 200 metres in 24.5, and 300 metres in 
37 seconds. Note that the first 100 metres of each repetition should be slightly slower than the 
rest of the mn (having started from zero speed in the first 100m), so that the athlete is able to 
finish strongly and fast without an undue feeling of fatigue and loss of form; as experienced in 
badly judged efforts (e.g. 11 secs, 11.5 secs, 12.75 secs and 14.25 secs, which is devastating 
physically and psychologically, and not beneficial at all). 

In addition to the above, Gerschler taught us to mn hard to at least 10 metres beyond the actual 
finish line. Gerschler was concerned how we drove through the tape in a race. He had 
nightmares (almost!) seeing Josey Barthel racing the last few steps, looking pleased and slowing 
up while winning the 1,500m Gold Medal in the Helsinki Olympics - nearly letting Bob 

McMillen of the USA through to win. So we always trained to mn beyond the tape, and not at 


Training is much more than just running intervals. You must go on to do race practice, together 
with fast and hyper- fast running. The hyper- fast times shown above are for a world-class athlete 
in peak form; you will therefore have to adjust your expectations accordingly. For example: 

1 - 400m to be mn in 60 secs, then 58 etc. down to 52 or even 48 secs over a period of time. 

2 - 600m in 1:36, then 1:32, then 1:30, then 1:28, and perhaps even 1:14. 

3 - 800m in 2:04, then 1:58, then 1:54, and perhaps even 1:48. 

(N.B. Each training session should produce identical times for each mn. The improvements 
quoted occur over a period of time). 

The variations possible in this type of training are i nfi nite. Training becomes a very interesting 
game of combining all these various elements into your programme in the proper amounts at the 
proper times. Early in the year, you should be doing a great deal of general mnning in the forest, 
including a lot of hills. As you get fitter and fitter, you can then add interval training to your 
programme, and then hyper- fast running as the racing season approaches. Once you begin 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

racing, intervals will have been phased out altogether in favour of faster and faster hyper- fast 
running sessions (with fewer repetitions, of course!) and the race practice sessions. 

Gerschler stated that maximum speed can be developed by 100-metre sprints. However, you 
should maintain your overall volume of running throughout the year, and aU year you should be 
doing weight training to assist your running (see Chapter Five). 

When I was training at my best, I was able to run from three to six hours a day, taking in 
interval training, hyper- fast running and race simulation as part of the training “package”. Every 
day I ran the equivalent of a marathon or more. My body was able to sustain this kind of 
workload only after many years of continual and consistent hard work. The only problem I had 
was wearing out a lot of shoes; I did not wear out my body. For interests sake, I am hsting an 
example of several days of training that I did prior to achieving my world record for 5,000 
metres (13:36.8) in 1956. (Caution: this is not a schedule to be copied by any athlete or runner 
without many years of background and with exceptional abihty). 

Day One 

7:30 a.m. - 30 minutes run. 

Noon - 4 X alternate 800/l,200m (2:08, 3:11, 2:08, 3:11, 2:09, 3:12, 2:08, 3:13). Total time: 
three hours. 

6 p.m. - 4 X alternate 800/l,200m (2:08, 3:10, 2:09, 3:12, 2:09, 3:12, 2:09, 3:13). Total time: 
three hours. 

Total for the day: six and a half hours miming. 

Day Two 

7 a.m. - 30 minutes mn. 

Noon - 8 X 800yds (1:58-1:59 followed by a five minute jog). Total running time: two and a half 

Evening - 10 x 440yds (57-58 seconds with a four minute jog). Total miming time: two and a 
half hours. 

Total for the day: five and a half hours miming. 

Day Three 
7 a.m. - 30 minutes mn. 

Noon - 12 X 440yds (55-57 secs with a six minute jog). Total miming time: two and a half 

Evening -4x1 mile (4:11-4:15 with a 10 minute jog). Total miming time: two and three-quarter 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Total for the day: five and three-quarter hours running. 

Nowadays, running on the modem rubber track, and not the cinder track I used to do the 
above training, means that mnning times can be greatly lowered by as much as one and a half 
seconds per lap (taking into account the shghtly shorter metric distances). In addition to aU this 
mnning, I was doing a great deal of weight training! 

It is important to remember that when you mn your race simulations, you must do so in a less 
stressful manner than when actually racing. Take it easy and forget about sprinting the last lap; 
just mn along at a comfortable pace. The object is to accustom your body and your mind to 
mnning the distance. My favourite mns were 2 miles in 8:40 to 9 minutes, four miles in 18:30- 
19:30, and three miles in 13:30-13:35. I lik ed to finish these mns quickly, with a last lap of 
about 60 or 61 seconds, but not flat-out (I have done 53.8 seconds for the last 440 yards of a 
5,000m race). You can do the same kind of mnning, below your maximum ability, over 
distances ranging from 3,000 metres up to 10,000 metres, although I am sure that very few 
mnners can do the type and volume of very fast mnning I was doing in the 1950s. Initially, you 
will have to settle for running well within your capabihties - with times a httle more conservative. 
But how can you find your particular level? How do you know how fast to mn these fast 

You have to seek out an experienced coach to match your training schedule to your ability at 
any particular moment. A mnner cannot do this himself very easily. If you are a coach, you must 
make sure that you are very careful to gauge the abilities of your athletes correctly. It is 
important that you do not demand more than the athlete is able to reasonably dehver, whilst stiU 
being able to recover for a similar session the next day. I like to set a target time my athletes can 
easily reach - then they always succeed! 

I deal with about 100 different facets of training when trying to produce champion mnners. 
Most coaches I know understand about 20 of these 100 facets, some coaches know 45 or 50, 
and I have known one or two who know all 100 facets of the art. The point I am making is that: 
(1) there is no detail of your life or your training which is too minor to be considered in relation 
to your training schedule; and (2) it is cmcial to find yourself as good a coach as possible, 
because it is not possible to take guidance solely from a piece of paper (hke the training 
schedules you frequently see pubhshed in magazines, and the schedules of my own that I have 
cited here). You really need a mentor to save you from making the 1,001 mistakes that can be 
made in training and racing. A good doctor is also important (see Chapter Six on diet and 

Now that you have become very fit after a good solid period of training, and are also very 
strong, you will want to race. Before a big race your body must be freshened up from aU the 
hard work in order to achieve your top form. I have actuaUy spoken recently to “top” coaches 
whose poUcy it is to send athletes into competition tired. This is wrong! BiU Toomey told me he 
had five days of zero activity before winning the decathlon in the 1968 Olympic Games in 
Mexico City. The high altitude there might have had something to do with this exceptionaUy long 
rest before that particular competition. A mnner wiU usuaUy relax his training load for at least 
three or four days leading up to a competition - but you will need to do something fast the day 
before and even the morning of the race in order to “clean out the pipes”, open up your 
breathing, remind the body about mnning hard, and reassure yourself that you can stiU mn. I 
have mn two world records in four days, and raced eight times in a week, stiU mnning close to 
my world-record level in the eighth race; racing was resting for me. So it has to be said that rest 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

is a relative thing! Some of my rest days before a world record race would kill a jogger. One 
man's meat is another man's poison. Everybody is different. A good coach will know what each 
individual needs in order to do his best racing. If you are racing twice a week there will be no 
time to do any hard, fast mnning at all. Just 40 minutes on the forest or golf course twice a day 
will suffice. 

Psychologically, you must take every race seriously. Do not mn races for training and do not 
train through races. Prepare specifically for every race. Always race your best. Do not race if iU, 
injured or unfit. Build up a good racing record because this is the only way to avoid developing 
bad racing habits, like dropping out. Either race properly or don't race at all! 

People ask me about specific training for the marathon or the 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000m. 
Basically, the best 5,000- metre mnner will be able to mn with the very best marathon mnners if 
he wants to, and has trained over a long period. Examples of this include Carlos Eopes (13:16 
5,000m, 2:07 marathon), Alberto Salazar (13:11 5,000m, 2:08 marathon), and Ingrid 
Kristiansen (14:58 5,000m, 2:21:06 marathon). Distance is no problem for the best athletes. 
Anyone can mn a long way if they go slowly enough; however, as soon as you begin cracking 
on the speed you'll soon crack up if you aren't able to mn fast. A mnner tike Mary Decker ran 
1:56.3 for 800 metres and 31:35.3 for 10,000m, and proved herself to be unbeatable at every 
distance in between. She could mn a world record marathon, too. If you have speed (which 
you are either bom with, or work at for years to acquire), you will have all your competitors 
over a barrel. 

The system of training I have outlined in this chapter will make you very fast and strong, and 
give you the abihty to mn races over a wide range of distances much faster than you ever 
suspected possible. All you have to do is decide which distances you want to mn - either 
because you tike a particular distance, or because you have a particular aptitude for mnning that 
distance (or because you can make the most money by mnning that distance...). You should 
make an effort to concentrate to some degree on a particular distance(s), however, as we all 
know the saying: “A Jack of all trades, but master of none”. 

Oi^anising Your Training Programme 

Almost every Sunday for the last 40 years I have done an “extra long” mn, preferably over very 
difficult terrain, in the mountains, up and down steep hiUs, or through forests. The Surrey hiUs in 
England were a great place for this type of training. An ideal Sunday session would be a 
three- hour mn in the morning, followed by an easy mn of 30 minutes to an hour in the 
afternoon. We had some really mad Sunday mns in the 1950s. At times we covered as many as 
40 miles in a day, just for the heU of it. 

How my training is organised during the week is a result of the fact that in the 1950s in Eondon 
it was only possible to use the track on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Tooting Bee track where 
we trained was only floodht on those days during the winter months. So a tradition dating back 
40 years, and based on the li mitations imposed by the hghting situation at Tooting Bee, has been 
dictated to the athletes I train, first in England and later in New Zealand. Our hard training days 
have always been Tuesday and Thursday, with relatively easy mnning on the days in between. 
Every champion mnner we had in our Otahuhu Club in Auckland, including Anne Audain and 
Ahson Roe, was initiated into training with this system - with very long mns in the forest by the 
sea on Sundays. Hard time trials or races were held on Saturday. Some of the champions at 
Otahuhu would mn both a time trial on Saturday morning and a club race on Saturday 
afternoon. We had early morning mns (before breakfast) of 20 to 30 minutes. The evening mns 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

were between 45 minutes and two hours. On average, the top runners at Otahuhu were mnning 
between 70 and 120 miles per week. We did our interval training or hyper- fast running on 
Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending on the time of the year and the type of races we were 
preparing for. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were easy “footing” days. This type of schedule 
provided overwhelming success for the South London Harriers in England, and for the Otahuhu 
Club in Auckland. Thirty- five years is a pretty sohd length of time over which we launched many 
champions and record breakers; runners over the Ml range of racing distances from 100- metre 
sprints up to the marathon. I beheve that the success this type of training provided us with is 
ample justification for me to propose it as the best way to organise your training. 

In my pre-Gerschler days, a typical week of training for me when in top form was as follows: 

Sunday: am - three hours mn. Tooting Bee. Flat. 

pm - four hours walk. Faster than joggers today! 

Monday: am - 30 minutes mn, Coulsdon Downs. HiUy. 

pm - two hours of strong 100 paces, soft 100 paces, Coulsdon. No easy 

Tuesday: am - 30 minutes mn, Coulsdon Downs. 

pm - three hours track mnning. Tooting Bee, including Zatopek- style 
interval training [40x300 jog 100; or 30x400 jog 100; or 60x200 jog 200]. 


am - 30 minutes mn, Coulsdon Downs, 
pm - same as Monday. 


am - 30 minutes mn, Coulsdon Downs, 
pm - same as Tuesday. 


am - 30 minutes mn. 

pm - one to one and a half hours, as Monday. 


am - 60 minutes mn. 

pm - three hours hard cross-country, Coulsdon. Hilly. 

The eventual range of my mnning, despite an initial limitation of raw speed, went from 35.6 
seconds for 300 metres, through to international class half-mile races of around 1:52 (though I 
think I could have mn under 1:50.0), to world class 10,000m races, and a listed World Record 
over 20 miles of 2 hours. I defeated the 1956 Olympic Silver Medalist over 1,500 metres and 
world record holders Peter Snell and Wes Santee over a mile. I was able to beat the world 
records for distances ranging from 3,000 metres through to 20 miles. I am one of only three 
athletes who has held world records and been ranked among the top 10 in the world in the 
1,500, 5,000 and 10,000m at the same time. (The other two are Kenyan Kip Keino and 
Belgium's Gaston Reiff). I was ranked in the top 10 twelve times in 10 years. This is the longest 
span of time any athlete has been ranked in the top 10. 

So, the training programme I followed gave me everything, including the abihty to lead a race for 
the entire dstance, or to wait and sprint past everyone at the finish (except Herb Elhott, who 
was unbeatable at every stage of almost any race). I wasn't a “sitter” by any means, but a 
Jack- of- aU- trades racer who took races anyway they were offered up. I also beheve in doing 
special training to change speeds instantly; this I did during the three hours in the woods of 
Surrey. I sprinted every 100 metres - especially up hhls - throughout the three hours until my 
mind and body were infinitely strong. As a result, a race of hard surges which was hard on the 
rest of the guys, was easy for me to handle. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Of course, I am writing here about the very top level of my training and racing capacity. It must 
be emphasized that it took me many years to get to this level. In order to reach such an 
incredible capacity yourself, you must be wiUing to train and race non-stop for six to eight years. 
I went against all advice except that of Gerschler and Zatopek in those days, for example by 
mnning multiple races in major meets - like the hard international 1,500- metre race at Bislet 
Stadium in Oslo followed by a win in the 5,000 metres a few minutes later against most of the 
best runners in the world. At the age of 14, 1 won an Army Cadets' Junior Mile race, then ran a 
few minutes later to place second in the Senior Race in an identical time. Though now I am 
against multiple races for young mnners, and believe it is important that young mnners do not 
train intensively before 17 or 18 years of age - I did it! Everyone in England, even though they 
were only aware of half the story, criticised the incredible training and racing I was doing. 

I survived against all the ideas of the so-called experts. I had made up my mind to be one of the 
best racers in the world, and it took me eight years of ultra- volume mnning to get to the top; I 
was not a gifted mnner. It wasn't uncommon for me to mn more than 12,000 miles a year 
during the 1950s, in training which took more than six hours on some days, and required an 
incredible effort most mortals would cringe at. The point of all this is that there need be no lim its 
to your achievements, so long as you are wiUing to keep at it Eimitations are always 
self-imposed. However, I know now that a mnner can get the best results on rather less than 
the ultra- marathon preparations I made. 

On days when you don't feel like mnning hard, always try to do some mnning - Gerschler's 
mles required a rninimum of an hour a day of easy ‘Tooting” (assuming one bears in mind the 
safety controls described elsewhere in this book). One day in 1956, at the track in Croydon, 
England, I felt lethargic but stiU jogged around for half an hour. I felt better so then did a few 
100- metre strides in my spikes and started to get going. Then I decided to mn softly a 3/4 mile 
trial. I chose 69 secs speed, which I considered jogging speed, because I usually ran 3 minutes. 
Then I ran a 440- yard jog. I felt better and better and finished up by mnning 8x3/4 miles in 
averages of 3m 27secs. That was a nice easy day of mnning with no stress - a total of 2 hrs 35 
minutes and a weight training session of 30 minutes. An easy day! A hard day would include the 
same type of training but much more intense speeds. I want to stress once again that I cannot 
do such things today, and only mnners in super- human condition can get away with this kind of 
training, and then only after many years of hard effort. The average mnner will end up in hospital 
if he or she attempts this kin d of training. Moderate your efforts according to your fitness and 
abihty, and do what you enjoy. I always enjoy my mnning. 

There is another side to the same coin, however. If you never try harder, you will never get 
better. Jogging, and more jogging, will turn a mnner into a walker in short order. Unfortunately, 
we read of some really good mnners who spend a lot of time jogging around with no speed 
work; but the speed mnning they get in the many races they mn overpowers the jogging and 
does them good. This type of mnner very often starts the season by turning in mediocre times 
and usually does not come around to mnning very well until after the major championship events 
have passed. Their performances improve because of the fast “training” they have achieved in 
their racing. They do not reahse that their actual training is all but useless and it is only their 
racing programmes which make them perform well. The problem with this approach to training 
is that there is a li mit to how much your body will adapt to the stresses of racing, if it only 
encounters those stresses every couple of weeks, or, perhaps, only once a month. The result for 
many very fine mnners (who adopt an ESD approach to training) is a gradual deterioration of 
racing performance over several years. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Another popular aspect of training which I think is very dangerous is that known as 
“periodization” - that is, breaking down the training year into various “phases”, each of which is 
divorced from the others. Thus, the beginning of the year may be devoted to a slow distance 
“buUd-up”, the second portion of the year devoted to hiU training, a third part devoted to 
interval work and then speed training, and finally (though most of these mnners never get this 
far) a racing season undertaken. The difficulty with training in this manner is that you go along 
quite well with one aspect of training (e.g. long distance mnning), and then suddenly, on a 
certain day, “Bang!”. You start hiU- bounding, or speed- training, or something new, and the 
body simply is not ready for the change, and invariably, year in and year out, you are more 
olfen than not injured. The body should be trained in all aspects of mnning, all of the time. Only 
the emphasis should change as you progress through the year; no aspect of training should be 
entirely given up for any significant length of time. The balance between different types of 
training (distance mnning, intervals, hiU mnning and speed training) should be adjusted as the 
year progresses. 

Keep trying to get stronger using weights and gymnastics exercises for all-around fitness. Keep 
mnning some hills in every mn (i.e. don't mn around flat places all the time). Keep some speed 
training in your programme all year. Basically, keep doing a lot of mnning. Merely change the 
stress and balance between the different aspects of your training as you move through the 
training year. For example, in the weeks immediately prior to the start of a racing season, a lot 
of speed mnning (including interval training and hyper- fast mnning) should be employed, as 
discussed earher. During a racing season, like the US High School season (when it is not 
uncommon for teams to have two meets each week), no interval training or hyper- fast running is 
necessary. If the high school team must mn two meetings in a week, the races provide all the 
hyper- fast mnning needed. The other days are necessary for recuperation and freshening up, in 
preparation for the next race. It is not uncommon, however, for young mnners in US high 
schools to mn two or three races in every meeting and then to train hard with intervals or 
hyper- fast mnning on the days in between. AH these youngsters need is to mn easier on the days 
between meetings. They need rest from the kiUing races, not persecution! 

Ideally, it is best to race every two or three weeks, or to have a group of races scheduled 
during a week or 10- day period, after which the athlete needs a brief spell to recover, before 
going back into a period of constmctive training. High school track and cross country 
programmes in the US are decimating many of the best young mnners, because they schedule 
too many races in too short a time. This is a tragedy. In addition to these murderous racing 
programmes, many coaches employ a “gun- at- the- head, do- it- or- else” psychological approach 
which destroys many more athletes than it helps. Do I have to attack the adults and media men 
who constantly praise this sort of stupidity in order to make my point? Many, many young 
middle and long distance mnners mn two or even three races in the High School 
Championships. These youngsters often disappear once their high school careers end. 

The best advice I can give to these young mnners and their overzealous coaches is to mn no 
more than one, perhaps two races if there is a generous time gap between them. The exception 
to this mle is sprinters in the 100- and 200- metres. Coaches who consistently require their 
young mnners to mn these extraordinary double and triple efforts are killing off much of the 
incredible talent that exists in the US. Athletes who endure this insanity must accept the fact that 
they are going to be also-rans once they leave school, because much of their abihty will have 
been eroded. It will take an athlete a season or two to overcome the effects of his being abused 
as a schoolboy, but many never recover. If he can survive the years immediately following 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


leaving high school, then he has a chance. The schoolboy phenoms of yesterday get a rude 
shock when they try to perform at the top of modem track and field. 

So what we are talking about is planning a racing and training schedule which makes consistent 
development (over several years of hard training) possible. A good training programme is one 
which allows the mnner to consistently work hard every day. A programme which overki ll s a 
mnner one day, so that he has to back off and recover for several days before the next hard 
day, is too hard. A coach and athlete who plan ahead together, and who have a pretty good 
idea of how and where and when they will race even before the season starts, will have a 
reasonable chance of puUing everything together for a successful season. Flexibihty is also 
necessary in case of unforeseeable circumstances, or if the athlete's abihty suddenly blossoms 
into another racing area (for example, an 800- metre mnner who suddenly discovers an aptitude 
for the 400m). When this happens, it is important to concentrate on the athlete's best event. An 
athlete will pick up a new ‘Tavourite” event because he has found he can be more successful in 
that one. There is nothing hke success to breed satisfaction. Many superstars in track and field 
started off as champions at school in some other, sometimes completely unrelated event. These 
switches in speciahty may be the result of having a very smart coach who saw potential in a new 
area and channelled the athlete in that direction, or, more often than not, may occur by accident. 
When I begin to train an athlete, it takes me six months or more to evaluate the individual's 
talent and character. During this period, I test the athlete and adjust the emphasis of training in 
order to find out what his or her strengths and weaknesses are. The coach must learn to 
capitalise on the athlete's strong points, while subtly removing his weaknesses. An athlete must 
have no weaknesses at all, but rather be strong in all areas which pertain to his event - both in 
the mind and in the body. A coach's job is to deal with the best athletes, and athletes with less 
abihty, in the same way. Praise is to be given to ah athletes, regardless of their abihty. Each is 
making the same efforts to improve. Even though we are all bom equal, some are more equal 
than others. Encourage everyone who has the gah to get out and have a go. A lot of champions 
started out as chump mnners. 

What about a year-round programme? Is it really necessary to rest for two months every year 
the way some superstars do? Do they reahy he around in bed without twitching a muscle for 
two months? 

Of course not. I have not seen one great mnner do this. It may be a good idea to switch to 
different activities for a few months, to get away from the daily regime of your speciahty - play a 
game; go cycling; go swirnrning; lift weights - but never stop everything completely. I have 
known very many champion mnners who kept at it summer, winter, spring and faU for years and 
years, beating everyone in the process; and when they take a prolonged break they never get 
back up to the same level again. At the other end of the spectmm, there are some champion 
mnners who hke to devote a part of the year to terrific effort, and then fah back on some other 
achvity for a time - cahing that period a “rest”. But they shh remain very active. Different 
systems fit different individuals, and the coach and the athlete must work hand-in-hand in order 
to discover what works best from one year to the next. What is necessary this year may not be 
exactly what is required in the next. In general, however, a change in programme is as good as a 

I have already said that I am against a long period of “build-up”. By admitting that a build-up is 
necessary, an athlete is acknowledging that he has gone downhih. And it often takes an athlete a 
period of time to recover from a build-up. A build-up usually starts at the end of a hard season 
when the best thing to do is to go fishing (but rot for two months at a time!). Take a short 
break, then come back fresh, and aim higher for the next season instead of shding back down to 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

where you were a year or more ago. Do not start shuffling about, but work for next year. I want 
my athletes to stay at the top, not to abdicate their excellent fitness and slide down to the pack. 
How long, then, does it take to get fit in the first place, if you have never done anything at aU, 
not a single step? 

Then you are a special kind of human being, who needs to do a httle exercise a couple of times 
a day (5 to 10 minutes of gentle walking and slow mnning) until you get your body to 
acknowledge that there exists something called exercise. This should be preceded by a visit to 
the doctor. 

This initial period of exercise is going to test you out. It is going to be difficult. You will get stiff 
muscles and get comfortably tired. You will sleep more, and better. So take this preliminary 
exercise very easily. Don't do much, but keep at it regularly, and, most importantly, do not give 
up, and don't miss a day. When you have managed this for at least a month you will be on your 
way. The most difficult thing to estabhsh is the new pattern of hving; to allow the body to 
achieve a basic level of fitness. 

You only increase the volume of exercise when it becomes easy to do so. You must pay 
attention to the technically correct way to mn right from the beginning, and ensure that you have 
the correct equipment to do this, as we have described in this book. You can then start some of 
the other aspects of training, making things progressively more difficult and strenuous for the 
body. Find a hi lli er place to mn. Try to mn your favourite course in a faster time. You could 
even try some of the easiest interval sessions a couple of times a week. At the weekend try a 
longer mn of up to half an hour. Remember that these are stiU early days. 

You will have read how champions result from years of hard mnning, so you yourself have to 
follow a steady path of improvement, too. Don't iish at mnning 10 kilometres, let alone a 
marathon, until you have done two or three years of sensible preparation. A friend of mine in 
England ran in the London Marathon without adequate preparation, and today is in bad shape, 
suffering from diabetes. 

Lastly, look around for a coach. Join a club. Try Orienteering. These are fine ways to get fit and 
enjoy running. 


To mn really fast in a sprint is most often a gift some mnners are bom with, but others can 
acquire it through years of hard work. We have all seen the gifted type who ran away from us at 
school without training and with consummate ease on a 100- or 220- yard sprint. Give these 
guys and girls a pair of spikes and they go like a rocket for the short sprints, but die a horrible 
death if they try the same thing for a quarter- rrule. 

These gifted people are destroyed by over- training and stretching exercises. Their magical 
abihty is eroded away slowly and surely over two or three seasons by the games of hours of 
exercising, and dri ll s of false technique that are popular today. 

Two examples that spring to mind are Houston McTear, a 9.9 second 100- metre man at High 
School who was worn down to a 10.6 second man, and finally a nothing- at- aU man. Or 
Henley- Smith's New Zealand Schoolboy Champions who ended up injured most of the time, 
and consequently unable to c li mb into the top tiers of senior mnning. 

The sprinter is best personified by a fellow who trains only two or three times a week. He 
spends a lot of time playing other games, like football, basketball or soccer. When he does 
train, he does very httle volume, but a lot of sprinting at high speed, especiaUy out of blocks - 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


this in lightweight racing spikes. He cannot last beyond 200 metres as a mle, but can hurdle like 
a champion with a little proper training, and can be champion in the long jump. 

Jesse Owens told me many of his secrets at the Tokyo Olympics back in 1964. He always 
stayed fresh; he never trained too hard; he never jumped into the long jump pit except in a 
competition. His philosophy was: “If I can hit the board at 10.2 speed then I am going to 
out- jump aU those Turkeys”. 

The sprinter goes to the track, jogs a lap, does a couple of exercises, puts on his spikes, sprints 
hghtly a few times over 20 to 30 metres. Then he gets down to business with up to half a dozen 
fuUout sprints, and he goes home. He is only at the track for less than an hour altogether. Some 
days he does one or two dozen starts out of blocks as his training session. This he does about 
three times a week. 

Olympic Champion Alan Wells told me that he didn't jog at aU because he didn't beUeve in 
training himself to go slowly. He started off with Ught springing mns on the grass over 20 to 50 
metres, with a walk back between them. 

Prior to a race, the sprinter begins his warm-up in the mind. He wor ks himself up mentaUy, and 
gets fuU of adrenaUne and excitement. If you want to eliminate that super- animal condition innate 
to aU good sprinters, make them warm-up for three quarters of an hour, and fool around doing 
damaging exercises for another half- hour. He or she wiU then be guaranteed not to have enough 
adrenaline or energy left for the race. 

It is essential for the sprinter to do aU his mnning in racing shoes. Immediately before the race 
starts he should not be mnning fuUouts out of the blocks, or sprinting like heU at aU. Instead, he 
must save these maximum efforts for the race alone. 

So, sprinters are a breed apart. Keep them fresh, get them twice as strong with weight training. 
Hold them back so that they can explode in the races. When a sprinter mns a fuUout effort, stop 
him taking a short interval - that would destroy his raw speed and start h im on the way to 
becoming a distance mnner, by developing his endurance to the detriment of his speed. A 
suitable rest associated with a fuUout sprint is at least 10 minutes. FoUowing this, a mini- warm- 
up is required (e.g. mn Ughtly over 100 metres, incorporating 3 or 4 short accelerations). Then 
he is ready for the next fuUout effort. 

An exception b this mle is when the sprinter does short starts over 10 to 20 metres. After 
these, the sprinter should walk back slowly to 20 metres behind the blocks, until the coach calls 
him to the mark again. In this case, the rest interval would be fairly short, because the coach and 
mnner need to get back to work quickly in order to reinforce the learning process that is going 

At aU times, the sprinter should move Ughtly on his toes Uke other mnners, with a tempo of at 
least 3 steps per second. To compete with the world's best, he is going to have to move even 
faster than this, at up to 5 steps per second. This is where so many sprinters fail to match the 
champions, as they find it impossible to move their body parts that fast. This is because they 
never train to move so fast, and for most of their training practice actuaUy do the opposite; 
performing slow motion dri ll s and activities that destroy what speed they have. 

Everything that a sprinter does on the day of the race is of critical importance to his 
performance, just like any other athlete. In Tokyo, I watched Bob Hayes practising starts on the 
morning of the 100 metres Final. He ran them in his slacks and racing spikes in a fast and 
energetic manner. He wasn't sitting around getting lethargic. Before racing, the sprinter has to 
prepare himself psychologicaUy. He must get worked up. He must think of the race as being a 
Ufe and death matter. There is a fine Une which is not to be crossed here, however. The sprinter 
has to Uft himself to a very high state of physical and emotional preparedness, but he must not 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

do hours and hours of physical activity and thus tire himself out. At the same time, he has to be 
able to relax, go to sleep, and get his mind away from the race; a kind of contradiction. An 
example of this is how I myself tried to relax before a big race. I liked to get to the Stadium 
early, and find a nice quiet place to lie down and read a book. Generally I could fall asleep for a 
while; but don't forget to have an alarm system for this. M ik e Larrabee, Tokyo Olympic 
Champion, fell asleep in the Warsaw Stadium, and only woke up in time to msh out onto the 
track to go to the mark! He lost the race. 

Once again, I will use Alan Wells as an example of the difference in warm-up between winners 
and bsers. Wells warmed up in New Zealand for a sprint race by springing around lightly for 
about 10 minutes, while the local losers spent an hour doing exercises and excessive sprinting. 
Wells beat them by a huge margin, mainly because they were so tired when they got onto their 
blocks, whereas he was as fresh as new paint. 

A sprinter must run with the most powerful arm action of all the different mnners. He has to use 
maximum power all of the time in the same mechanical way as all mnners. 

The popular fallacy that a sprinter, or indeed any mnner, should deliberately take bigger steps is 
a nonsense. If we went in for 3. 5- metre steps in a 100- metre race, it would necessitate less than 
3 steps per second. To do this, you would have to jump too high in the air. Consequently, you 
would be slower over the 100 metres because you would be spending too much time going up 
and down instead of forwards. In fact, on the contrary, a series of shorter, quicker steps is used 
by the top speedsters. Carl Lewis employs about 50 steps in 10 seconds, while Marties Gohr 
of East Germany u tili ses about 55 steps in her 11- second 100m. This is equivalent to around 5 
steps per second. 

To be a champion sprinter, you must not fail at the start. By this I mean that you must not get 
left behind. You must sharpen your wits; you must be able to react very quickly to the starter's 
gun. However, you should not dissipate all of your energy in an all-out explosion in the first 20 
to 30 metres. Accelerating smoothly, staying under control, and going fuUout in the final half of 
the race is the way to mn the 100 metres. It is during the last few metres of the race that most 
sprints are won, and very rarely in the early stages. The most significant exception to this mle 
was Armin Hary, Olympic Champion of 1960, who won many races from the blocks with his 
electric starts, which all of the other competitors complained were false starts. The general rule 
was illustrated by Carl Lewis when he won the 100 metres Olympic Final in Los Angeles. He 
was left behind at the start, and only grabbed the lead in the last 30 metres or so of the race. 
Another important factor is the correct stance on the blocks. The hand support in the set 
position should be centred on the lead foot as seen from in front of the runner. The body weight 
should rest on the front foot, ready for the transfer of the weight forward when the first step is 
taken. If the hands are not centred on the front foot, the sprinter will zig-zag out of the blocks in 
his initial steps, wasting energy, and so run slower than he could. The lead foot should be two to 
two and a half hand spans behind the starting tine (though individual differences should be 
observed; the most important aspect of the stance at the start is that the sprinter is comfortable 
and able to move fast from the position that results). The rear foot should be placed so that the 
knee of the trailing leg is resting on the track next to or slightly ahead of the lead foof s toes in 
the “On Your Marks” position. 

When the set position is called for by the starter, the sprinter should raise his seat up and at the 
same time rock forward into the balance position. Nearly all of the weight is taken on the hands 
and the lead foot. The rear foot merely rests lightly on the rear block. Its job will be to move as 
fast as possible in the first step forward on the “gun” - NOT, AS MANY PEOPLE SAY, TO 
PUSH OFF THE BACK BLOCK FIRST! If you do that, you will be left behind as the others 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

will be away on their first step! Isometric pressure should be apphed to the front block in the set 
position, and an inhalation made while coming into the set position. When the gun is fired, the 
mnner should exhale explosively as the back foot makes the first short, sharp step. A 
synchronised short, sharp arm punch should also be made with that first step (Note: Not a long, 
slowing arm swing which will delay the athlete). The first quick step with the back foot should 
accompany the powering off of the front foot. Don't waste time; the next step must come fast 
after the first one. This should be achieved by strong, short power movements with the arms 
and legs. You will need a series of short steps to facihtate rapid acceleration (5-10 depending 
on the individual's strength), before you will be able to get up into the full mnning stride. 

How high should the body be raised in the set position? 

The mechanical position of the legs decides this. If the seat is raised too high so that the legs are 
straight, it will be difficult for the mnner to generate much power. Conversely, if the seat is too 
low, not only will the centre of gravity be too low, leading to a waste of energy after the start 
because the mnner will be forced to hft himself up into the higher normal mnning level, but also 
the mnner won't be able to propel himself forwards particularly well when sitting on his 

A good test of the starting position is to gently push the mnner forwards when he or she is in the 
set position. If the mnner overbalances, the position is fine, but if he does not, he will need to 
ride forward more in the set position. Too many sprinters lose a lot of ground at the start of a 
race because they rock forward into the overbalance position after the gun has been fired. 
While they are doing this, the other mnners will already have taken their first step. 

If a coach asks a mnner to do leg speed practice he is leading them up the garden path, 
because every single step you mn must be at racing tempo. If you do not obey this law, you will 
erode away your mnning abihty. I once heard Rodney Dixon, after losing another race, make 
the excuse: “I haven't done any leg speed”; the assumption being that when he starts ratthng his 
legs along it will enable him to beat them all tomorrow. Just like that. 

It may seem that I have spent a large part of this book giving overly elaborate and detailed 
explanations and descriptions, but this is essential because of the complexity of the art of 
mnning. It has aU been done in an effort to make hfe easier for aspiring champions to succeed. I 
could quite easily have written much more. So many athletes are out there making siUy mistakes 
that I could have saved them from! Like Greta Waitz, John Treacy and Mamede performing 
poorly, for them, at the World Cross Country Championships through making simple errors in 
their training close to the race, aU the way down to the schoolboys and joggers doing silly things 
in their mnning that either injure them, destroy their best mnning, or kill them for good as far as 
mnning is concerned. The saddest cases of all, however, are those mnners who have actually 
died through making cardinal errors in mnning, because they assumed they knew aU the 
answers, or thought that because they themselves had written or read some of the books that 
have been printed, they were right. 

Lastly, I want to say that of aU the locations where it is possible to mn, I prefer to mn in wide, 
open spaces, and to do it with abandon according to, and as an expression of, my moods and 
feelings. Up hill and down dale, through woods or along beaches -this is tmly the most beautiful 
way to mn. The scientific aspects you read about in this book are necessary adjuncts to steer us 
around and through the pitfaUs and dangers that exist in this game. 

One other factor which I have found complements the various kinds of controUed training 
outUned in this book, and has been very important to me as a coach, enabUng close evaluation 
of my mnners, is to mn with the mnners that I train (and beat them if possible!). By this means, I 
have gained a much greater insight into their performance and potential, and have been able to 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

assess them more completely than the stopwatch could ever do. If I do my job well my trainees 
quickly get to beat me; sad, isn't it, that to do my job superlatively means I have to get 

The ultimate achievement would be to mn world record times during training. As Aoita of 
Morocco said in 1985: “I hke to race myself every time that I go for a mn!”. 

Purley (Gordon's signature "D.A.G. Pirie") 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



Objective And System 

A race is an aU-out effort over a short period of minutes or seconds. The aim of weight training 
for mnners is to simulate as closely as possible the movements used in mnning their special 
event, and hence the demands which racing makes on the body. In this way, the body's strength 
can be developed, with an emphasis on ensuring that the body is balanced in strength, and not 
lopsided with one side stronger than the other, as commonly occurs because most people are 
either right- or left-handed. A mnner should be equally strong in both sides of the body - left 
and right - and have balanced strength between the front and back of the body. 

Many athletes I treat for injuries are stronger on one side of the body than the other, and it is my 
belief that injuries are often caused by this imbalance. The weaker side is pushed or pulled by 
the stronger side until it gives out. The most common injury of this kind is of the hamstrings, 
resulting from unbalanced back strength. Weights used in training should therefore demand 
equal efforts from both sides of the body, and to achieve this I have found dumb-bells very 
useful. Many of the mnners who decry the positive effects of weight training have gained their 
superior strength with the assistance of a good Doctor or Chemist. Others - like Sebastian Coe 
and Steve Scott - are open about the significant role that weight training has played in their 

With dumb-bell exercises, you should try to use heavier and heavier weights up to as much as 
one-third or even one-half of your body weight. This is very difficult. If you are able to easily 
handle as many as three sets of ten repetitions of a particular weight, then the weight is too hght. 
If you cannot do at least six repetitions, the weight is too heavy. The same mle apphes to 
weights requiring a bar-beU. You should aim to work to at least two-thirds or more of your 
body weight with bar-bells. The ultimate test is to be able to hft the equivalent of your own body 
weight over your head. When you can do this, you will be strong enough for mnning events. 

Top field event performers and sprinters can hft weights up to the level of the very best 
weighthfters. Valery Borzov, 1972 Olympic 100- and 200-metre Champion, was fantasticaUy 
strong. World record holder Jarmila Kratochvilova became so powerful that her ferriiriinity was 
drawn into question (actually, her fantastic abihty was the result of almost 20 years of hard 

I was first introduced to weight training in 1952 by John Disley, who handed me a bar with 15 
pounds of weight on it. I was puny (though already British mnning champion and record holder 
at this time). The 15 pounds of weight was almost impossible for me to push over my head. My 
arms and upper body protested violently against the exercise, and after one session with this 
“massive” weight my muscles were dead. By the next day, however, I began to feel the positive 
effects of my efforts, with strength seemingly beginning to flow through my body. In no time at 
aU, I felt my three- hour mns going better. I couldn't afford to buy my own weights or go to a 
gym, so I found a log of wood and started my weight training at home in the garden, with 
builder's lead nailed to the ends of the log. I got stronger and stronger and, suddenly, I was 
stunning people with my sprint finishes, as well as pounding many of my competitors out of sight 
before the sprint even came round. 

In 1953, a generous gentleman from Surrey (whose name I have, regrettably, forgotten) gave 
me a set of weights after seeing a picture of my training “log” in the newspapers. I did weights in 
our back garden facing the kitchen window. My mother often pulled faces through the window 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

as I did the repetitions, grunting and gasping, and I had to beg her not to break my 
eoneentration while I was going at it tike heU, beeause it made me laugh! A1 Murray, the famous 
weight hfter, gave me sohd adviee on what and how to do weights. I went at the weights very 
hard in 1954, and so started the season in fabulous form. I set a world reeord for a grass- track 
mile (4:05.2), then suffered a broken bone in my foot from an accident and missed the rest of 
the season... 

From those early days on, weight training has been a part of my preparation for races, and that 
of the athletes I train, although I have on occasion been “kind” to many of my trainees in New 
Zealand, allowing them to get away with only hard mnning. I wiU not make that mistake again. 
From now on, if s weights and mnning or nothing. 

The most astounding thing about weight- trained athletes is that they often don't look the part. It 
is possible to get very strong without looking like Mr Universe or Rambo. Some very thin- 
looking individuals can be extremely strong, despite their skinny muscles and frames. Weight 
training does not go hand-in-hand with muscle bulge, unless you either munch a lot of steroids, 
or do a lot of slow, easy pumping. When we do maniac, high speed, aU-out maximum weights, 
we get very fast and strong without putting on any bulk at aU (you wiU not begin to bulge aU over 
the place, girls). Most tiuly super- fit people don't look the part; fitness is a hidden quahty. But 
when they “operate”, however, their performances reveal those “hidden” talents. The opposite 
of this case is The Incredible Hulk, who can't even jog across a room to visit his girlfriend 
without needing a rest when he arrives. 

Before getting onto the specifics of an effective weight- training protocol, here are some general 
guidelines about fitting weights into your overall programme: 

How often should one do weight- training? 

Every second or third day is about right, along with a fiill mnning programme (curtail your 
weights several days before a race). Your weight training should also continue through the 
height of the racing season. Do not give away all the good training you have done just when you 
need the greatest amount of strength. 

How hard should the weight-training be? 

There are two types of weight sessions: (1) a fuU-out session in which you do aU and every 
exercise as hard as you can; and (2) an easier session with half- dosages of fewer exercises. It is 
not uncommon for a tired mnner to feel much fitter after a moderate session with the weights. 
These sessions seem to flush out your muscles. On the other hand, the fiiU-out, go- for- it, 
max im um sessions tend to put the body down a bit, and numb it for a while; so those sessions 
should never be attempted near to a race day (say within six days). The body does cope easily 
with easy routines, however, and I sometimes even find that a few exercises with strong weights 
before a three- hour mnning session can bring fantastic strength into the mnning, making it feel 
much easier. 

I have always found my best mnning fitness - when I was able to set world records and finish 
races in stunning fashion - to be absolutely tied in with my best form with the weights. The 
stronger I was at grappUng with the weights (combined with a lot of hard mnning), the better I 
was on race day. It is interesting to note that the New Zealand veteran Derek TumbaU, who 
mns world records in his age group, does weight training nearly every day in the course of his 
job. He wiU deny this because he never touches a bar-beU, but he is doing hard physical work 
aU day long on his farm, and is as strong as a horse. He also does his mnning at an elevated 
altitude in the mountains around his farm. Derek has three major strength factors at work in his 
daUy Ufe: he goes for long mns; he mns up and down mountain paths; and he does 
weight- training as a way of hfe. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


If you are an average sedentary person, you are likely to be as weak as a chicken, the very 
opposite of Derek Tumball. If this is the case, go to a speciahst in weight lifting and have him 
test you for back, leg and arm strength. You will be shocked by your weakness. Then do 
weights for a month and go back to be re- tested; this time you will be astounded by your 
improved strength. Your mnning will become easier, and you will begin to go faster and faster. 

I have a chuckle every time I go into a health club. There are mnners and tri- athletes playing 
siUy games with puny weights, instead of getting “stuck in” and doing something that would be 
really beneficial for them. We go into the gym and smash away for 45 minutes to an hour, 
breathing like rhinoceroses, and then get out. The average inhabitants of the modem weight 
room fiddle about looking at themselves in the mirror, and never seem to get going. They are 
there for hours, sitting on their hands adrniring their expensive gear and big muscles in the 
looking glass. 

One example of this was Richard Okesene, who was New Zealand Javelin Champion. Richard 
had a fantastic body, at least that's what the girls told me, and would play around with huge 
weights - in fact, some enormous weights, in the 300- to 500- pound range. But his capabihties 
as an athlete were puny, compared with his apparently tremendous strength. His heart and 
circulation were so bad that he couldn't last out a dozen reps in a fight- weight exercise session. 
His endurance was nil. By the time he had mn up the 30 metres to throw the javefin, he was 
exhausted. After only three months of our style of weight training, plus some hard mnning, his 
best throw in the javefin went from 60 metres to 76 metres. If Richard continued in this style of 
training, I am sure he would be able to throw 100 metres. Athletes like Richard are to be found 
everywhere, but fike the dinosaurs with their big bodies and little hearts, they are bound for 

Before I began weight training, I was a long distance and cross country mnner who could grind 
it out with anyone, but a constant loser in a sprint. A diet of hard weights, however, turned me 
into a complete competitor, one who could pour on the pace and still sprint madly at the finish. 

Weight Exercises 

1 - High puU with bar-bell (for warm-up): one-third body weight, repeated 10 times. 

2 - Rowing exercise with bar-bell: 2/3 body weight, three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. 

3 - Dumb-bell press: one-third to one-half body weight, three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions with 
each arm. 

4 - Dumb-bell curls (forward and reverse): one-third to one-half body weight, three sets of 6 to 
10 repetitions with each arm. 

5 - Dead- lift with bar-bell: body weight and more, three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. 

6 - One-handed swings: one-third to one-half body weight, three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions with 
each arm. 

7 - Clean- to- chest: three sets of 6 to 10 repetitions. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Body Resistance Exercises 

1 - Press-ups: 6 to 60 repetitions. 

2 - Leg lifts: 6 to 60 repetitions. 

3 - Chin-ups: 6 to 20 repetitions. 

4 - Sit- ups: 6 to 100 repetitions. 

General Rules 

1 - When lifting bar-bells, look forward at a fixed point, with no jerky movements, back 
straight, knees bent, and bottom down. Grasp the bar and lean back, take the weight and hft. 

2 - Do weight training every two or three days, and continue throughout the height of the racing 
season (but not within a week of a race). 

3 - Warm-up with lighter lifts. 

4 - Free weights are better for mnners than universal gym, nautilus, etc. 

5 - The deadening effect of weights on muscles is normal, but, because of this effect, do not do 
a fuU, hard session of weight training before or immediately after a hard track session. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 



Compared to the average, sedentary, civilised person, the highly active, stressed and 
hard-working mnner needs an increased supply of aU the essential vitamins, minerals and 
nutrients. Most athletes pay little or no attention to the food they eat; and some are successful 
for a time. But it is very difficult to find an athlete who survives at a high level for a significant 
length of time without paying careful attention to what goes into his body. In “advanced” nations 
like Britain and the United States, people are fed by giant food corporations which not only 
monopohze the market, but denutrify the basic foods, reducing their natural ingredients and 
nutritional quahties to a point where the food is almost useless; and replacing these essential 
nutrients with a lot of poisonous chemicals and other additives. Many of these food additives 
are combined in such a manner that they actually destroy vitamins and minerals which are 
already in the body. If you are an average person, and you eat an average diet, you can bet that 
you will be suffering from malnutrition, but have been brainwashed by advertising into thinking 

If you eat nature's foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains - the only way to get the full value 
from them is to bend down and eat them off the ground, or reach up and eat them off the tree or 
plant they are growing on. Every hour and day that passes after a natural food leaves its home 
decreases its nutritional value. The fesher you can get your food, the better. If you wait long 
enough (months or years in the case of some foods in cold storage), most of the valuable 
nutrients will be destroyed. If you eat these stored foods you could get almost nothing in the 
way of nutritional value from them. 

Never eat white flour or its products, nor any sugars, nor any mi lk that has been homogenised. 
Scientists can teU you this, unless they are funded by one of the major food companies. Do not 
beheve scientific ‘Tacts” that have been purchased on the backs of food packages. 

In my nearly 50 years of rmxing with outstanding sports performers, I have discovered that it is 
possible to achieve distinction without proper nutrition, but a malnourished athlete will not stay 
at the top for very long before degenerating. The most common factor among successful 
sportsmen and women is that they are health- food and vitamin- supplement conscious. Many are 
also vegetarians. When you meet these careful and clever eaters later in life (if they have been 
able to avoid accidents and other acts of fate), they are usually stiU active, fit and healthy, 
especially when compared with someone who has hved on the average processed diet. 

The volume of food eaten is another factor. Similarly, how food is eaten is important, and, 
indeed, is just as important as what has been eaten. A meal should be taken in a relaxed, happy 
and non- stressful atmosphere. Time should be taken to eat your food slowly and thoroughly. 
The person who gobbles down his food without being relaxed (perhaps he argues, works or 
watches television during meals) is headed in the wrong direction. 

So, if you five in our beautiful “advanced” nations, you need to supplement your nutrition with 
vitamins and minerals, and to discard those things that represent mal(bad)nuttition. If you are a 
racing mnner, you need even more supplemental help than the average person - and the average 
person needs plenty. More and more is being discovered about the effects that vitamins have on 
the body. Hard-training athletes require a lot of extra vitamins and minerals, and must find a 
clever doctor who can save their fives, and increase their level of performance. It is very easy to 
go wrong with vitamins. Too much of a vitamin, in some cases, can be as bad as too little. The 
doctor's job is to evaluate you as an individual, and guide you in your special needs. These 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


needs will change as your body improves, so it is vital to stay in contact with a doctor who 
understands the demands of your sport. 

I repeat that the requirements of an athlete involved in intensive, energetic training and 
competition are greatly in excess of those of a sedentary person. Different individuals - 
especially women - have different requirements. Here is where competent medical advice and 
supervision comes in. It is nearly impossible for the untrained layman to monitor his or her own 
body chemistry. In order to avoid nutrition- and vitarnin- related mistakes with potentially serious 
consequences, therefore, consult a competent physician at the outset! This is very important. 
Athletes have to deal with three distinct areas that directly or indirectly deterrnine fitness and 
competence in their sporting activities: (1) the actual training they do; (2) nutrition - how, when, 
and what they eat and drink; and (3) the amount of rest (including sleep) they allow their bodies 
to have. If you do not carefully and constandy consider all of these areas, then you will not 
succeed or continue to succeed as an athlete. 

Two people may be given the same food and drink, and yet only one benefit from it. This is 
partly because how you eat your food affects whether or not your body will assimilate it 
properly. The digestive process begins with the chewing of the food, and if you swallow food 
without chewing it thoroughly, its chances of being fuUy digested are greatly lessened. Sahva is 
the key to complete and thorough digestion of your food. If food does not stay in the mouth 
long enough, the digestive process cannot be completed properly and you won't be able to fully 
utihse your food's nutritional value. 

Do not drink when you have a meal. Beverages with a meal interfere with digestion and reduce 
the nutritional effectiveness of your food. The mle for dritrking which we try to observe is: do 
not drink anything for 10 minutes before you eat, and wait one hour afterwards before drinking 
again. This regime makes for super workings of the digestive system, and ensures that you get 
the maximum benefit from your food. This is a most difficult demand to make on athletes, as it is 
against the “civ ili sed” norm for dining - everybody enjoys a bit of wine or beer with a meal -but 
you should try to avoid hquids with your meals, especially tea and coffee. 

Being overweight is the biggest obstacle many would-be athletes have to overcome. It slows 
you down. It shortens your fife. We derive enjoyment from eating, but you have a choice; either 
five high and fast for a few years, or take care of your body with a more moderate fife- style and 
enjoy it for a long time. 

Just as the timing and the manner in which you eat your food has a direct effect on how much 
good (or harm) it does you, so it is with vitamins. Certain vitamins work very well together, 
while others, if taken at the same time, tend to cancel each other out. For example, vitamin E 
and iron supplements clash. You must therefore take your vitamin E and iron at different times 
of the day in order to get the maximum benefit from both. 

The amount and frequency of taking vitamin supplements follows much the same mles as 
training. It is better to take your vitamins frequently (with meals) than to take your entire daily 
dosage in one go. The body is constantly working on the vitamins you put into it, processing 
them along with other essential nutrients from your food, and absorbing and eliminating them. A 
frequent constant supply is thus necessary if the body is to take full advantage of the vitamins. 
This is especially hue for the water-soluble vitamins - they are rapidly turned over and flushed 
from the body. 

The amount of each vitamin that is necessary (or safe) remains a matter of considerable debate, 
but it does appear from the information available, and from my own experience, that large 
dosages seem to be the best way to help a body which is depleted by poor nutrition recover its 
health. The American Eood and Dmg Administration's (FDA's) recommended daily allowances 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

(RDAs) for each essential nutrient is probably inadequate for a training athlete. In many cases, 
therefore, it would be wise to multiply up the FDA's RDA. It is essential to get expert advice 
from a doctor or other professional who understands the demands of your sport and event. You 
will need to be very careful in the selection of a doctor, however, as most physicians in Britain 
and the US have tittle or no expertise in nutrition and biochemistry, and even less knowledge of 
the needs of a highly stressed, hard-working athlete. Look around until you find a doctor with 
sufficient expertise before you commit your body and your mnning career to him. 

I frequently use two days of my own physical activities to illustrate the manner and effectiveness 
with which I have supplemented my meals with vitamins in order to improve my physical 

First Day 

Cycled 230 kilometres from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., covering the first 30 kilometres in one hour, after 
which I ate a mini- meal with vitamin and mineral supplements. This was repeated eight times 
throughout the day so I arrived at my destination fresh and ready to mn six miles. 

Second Day 

Cycled 30 kilometres, took a mini-meal and supplements; ran for two and a quarter hours, had 
a mini- meal with supplements; ran for three and a half hours, had a mini- meal with supplements; 
and cycled 30 kilometres home. 

Following these two days of extraordinary exercise, I continued mnning for two to three hours 
each day without any discomfort or fatigue. Despite the massive amount of exercise I put in 
during those two days, I experienced no need to “recover”. In order to do that kind of activity, 
you must either be crazy or very careful with your nutrition; if you are not careful you will come 
apart. The mini-meals I ate consisted of one lOOmg iron tablet, one gram of vitamin C, four 
small sweets, half a pint of milk, a slice of black bread, and two ounces of cheese. These meals 
and supplements were taken every hour on the first day, and between activities on the second 
day. I drank water as my thirst dictated during the exercise. There are other instances where I 
was able to continue high levels of vigorous exercise because I was adequately nourished. I did 
not have any adverse effects from this very strenuous activity. This still apphes today, and I find 
it easy to do many hours of sustained exercise, provided I have good nutrition. 

Mistakes Made By Athletes 

Diet is not the only area in which athletes can make mistakes. A hard- training athlete must take 
care to manage every aspect of his hfe. He must closely monitor his body on a day-to-day basis 
in order to avoid serious problems. 

The worst mistake an athlete can make is one that causes his own death. This is obvious, but 
not as uncommon as one might think. If an athlete is iU, as a result of malnutrition or any other 
cause, he must take the necessary steps to remedy it. Apart from the obvious, like not mnning 
when iU, there are other mles an athlete must obey. You should take your pulse every morning 
before you get out of bed. In a short time you will arrive at a base level for your resting pulse. If 
your pulse has increased by as little as 10 percent above the base level, do not train on that day, 
and until your pulse has returned to the base level for two consecutive days. A high pulse is a 


© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 

signal from your body that something is wrong (classically associated with a raised temperature 
and other symptoms, as in flu). Listen to your body. 

An example of a man who did not heed this advice was Mike Wells -Cole, British Orienteering 
Champion. He ran for two hours on a Sunday morning despite an extremely high pulse - he was 
suffering from influenza. He was dead by 5 p.m. on the same day. I had offered him advice, but 
sadly he disregarded it, and tragically paid for it with his hfe. 

The Royal Navy has a similar backward approach to fitness. I recendy went aboard a Royal 
Navy Carrier in Auckland to offer a day of social miming to any athletes on board. I was told 
by the ship's sports officer that there were no mnners on board. Sometime previously they had 
tried a fitness test to see how far each seaman could mn in a specified time. Several seamen 
dropped dead, so the mnning was stopped. The correct conclusion to be drawn from this 
catastrophe was that the crew were in a woeful physical condition, and obviously were not fit 
enough to fight a war. Moreover, the activity chosen to test their fitness was inappropriate, and 
even stupid. The proper sequence of events should have been to give all the crew (including the 
officers, who are the worst of the lot as far as fitness is concerned) adequate training before the 
trial was undertaken, so that they might be brought up to standard. Instead, a silly test was 
administered, and when the sailors died they simply cancelled all mnning - creating a Catch 22 

Another example was the late Alan Brown, an inteUigent Bank Manager from New Zealand, 
who was trying very hard to beat me in Orienteering. He started a race shortly after a “civi li sed” 
breakfast, but in the forest 200 metres after the start, he became sick, and choked to death. 
Again I had tried to advise him, but he too would not listen. You must leave at least two hours 
between finishing a meal and starting a mn. 

Errors Specific To Diet 

ANOREXIA - It is not uncommon for college teams in the US to insist that their girls control 
their weight by dieting, without correct nutritional guidance; the scales being the only criterion. 
The result is that some young women stop eating to “make the weight” whenever they are 
tested. A weakened condition caused by not eating enough nutritious food can lead to many 
problems, sickness and even broken bones. Female mnners should instead aim to get faster by 
getting stronger and healthier with hard training and eating nutritious foods and taking vitamin 

SPORTS ANAEMIA - This is another common problem amongst athletes who train hard 
which is likely to be caused by poor nutrition. Without proper nutrition, it is impossible to 
absorb the amount of iron necessary to carry out hard training day after day. Even if there is an 
abundance of iron available in the diet, inadequate nutrition may prevent the athlete from getting 
maximum iron absorption, and the blood count will plummet. Vitamin Bi2 and fohc acid (other 
haematinics) are also critical in such cases. 

Have a regular blood test to estabhsh the level of haemoglobin in your body. Under a doctor's 
guidance, take iron supplements and improve your nutrition to raise your blood count, if 
necessary. If you are anaemic, don't look for a miracle cure. It can take as long as six months to 
improve your blood count - if you take it easy. It may be necessary to take a period of rest 
while you rebuild your blood. Then resume training as a healthier person. If you continue to train 
hard you are likely to have a greater set-back. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody 


Once again, it is important to work on this problem with a physician who is aware of the needs 
of a training athlete. A doctor used to the “average” person will tell you that a blood count (i.e. 
haemoglobin level) of 12 g/dl is adequate. If you are going to be an athlete, it will need to be at 
least 14 g/dl! Kip Keino and Jim Ryun had blood counts of over 19 g/dl when they were 
running at their best. 

Training at altitude will stimulate the body to develop a higher blood count due to the lack of 
oxygen in the air (which increases the secretion of a hormone called erythropoietin, leading to a 
stimulation of the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells). Athletes training at higher 
altitudes will therefore need to supplement their diet more, due to the increased demands that 
this type of training makes on the body. American Bill McChesney told me that he could not mn 
consistently hard at high altitude - he had to resort to swinirning and cycling, in heu of mnning, to 
keep his muscles going. If he had improved his nutrition while training at altitude, he would have 
found he could have trained very effectively, and perhaps would even have regained his position 
as national champion and record-holder. 

Finally, avoid the use of antibiotics. When you put these substances into your body, you destroy 
many of the good quahties you have built up with proper nutrition and hard training. Antibiotics 
are a last resort hfe-and-death treatment. If you take them, rest afterwards. Do not exercise for 
a week. Anne Audain made a dangerous error on three different occasions, when she 
attempted to mn hard after receiving antibiotic injections. She did not teU me she had received 
an injection - had I known, I would have stopped her from mnning for several days. Anne 
collapsed after a hard training session at the Otahuhu track on that Tuesday, and collapsed 
again during a major championship race four days later. Subsequently, she was ill for a couple 
of weeks. 

The same mle apphes to surgery. The knife is meant to be used in extreme cases. Surgeons are 
for bed- ridden people on their last legs. Avoid the knife if at aU possible. 

I have found that the following books contain information you may find useful. You will find 
contradictions from one book to the next, but each of these publications contains the basics that 
you will need to know in order to make effective use of diet and vitamin supplementation, and 
thus maximise your level of health and athletic performance: 

Eat To Win , by Dr. Robert Haas. 

The Complete Guide to Health and Nutrition , by Gary NuU. 

A Guide to Vitamins , by John Marks. 

The Vitamin Bible , by Earl MindeU. 

Eating to Win - Eood Psyching for the Athlete , by Erancis Sheridan. 

Your Personal Vitamin Profile , by Dr. Michael Colgan. 

© 1996-2004 Dr John S Gilbody